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Published: Friday, 8/15/2008

Prosecutors want Ohio inmate to wear stun belt


COLUMBUS, Ohio Federal prosecutors want a prison inmate to wear a stun belt during his upcoming trial on charges he escaped from a hospital, robbed two banks and took hostages before surrendering.

Billy Jack Fitzmorris, 35, requires extra security because he has damaged jail cell sprinklers and has been caught with contraband in his shoes, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Tom Genz.

Fitzmorris also cursed a federal judge Thursday with a tirade of obscenities after being sentenced to 35 years in prison on separate drug and weapon charges.

The stun belt is activated by remote control so that, at the push of a button, marshals could send an electric shock strong enough to render Fitzmorris unable to move, authorities said.

Defense attorney Joseph Scott objected to the request, saying extra security could be prejudicial to a jury.

U.S. Attorney Kevin Kelley argued that the stun belt could be worn under street clothes and shackles on Fitzmorris could be hidden from view by putting skirts around the defense and prosecution tables.

U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost said he would issue a ruling later.

Fitzmorris faces 45 years in prison if convicted of charges that he escaped last year from the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown, where he was getting treatment.

Investigators said he overpowered two guards, stole an officer's gun and then drove a carjacked vehicle about 150 miles to the Columbus area, where he robbed the banks of more than $50,000.

Police said they chased Fitzmorris to a house in Hilliard, where he kicked in the door and held two women hostage. One escaped out of a second-floor window, and the second was released when Fitzmorris surrendered about two hours later.

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