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Alabama lawyer sues state over videotaped kidnapping

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — An attorney who was abducted at gunpoint by a state parolee last year filed suit Wednesday against Alabama's prison system and the parole board claiming the agencies wrongly freed her attacker.

The woman is seeking a multimillion-dollar verdict to send a message that the state must protect citizens and make sure criminals serve their full sentences, attorney Tommy James said.

"What my client went through and is still going through is anyone's worst nightmare, and it simply should have never happened," James said. "We need drastic changes in the system to see that inmates are properly classified and that they serve their time fully."

Officials with the Alabama Department of Corrections and the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles said the agencies had not seen the suit and could not comment. The suit also named Shepherd's Fold, a halfway house in Birmingham, where an administrator declined comment.

The attorney was abducted outside her downtown home last May. A surveillance camera captured the kidnapping on videotape, which was broadcast nationwide.

Police later rescued the woman and arrested Dedrick Griham, 36, at a motel where he was holed up.

Authorities said the woman was raped and sodomized and forced to inhale smoke from crack cocaine. She is not being identified because she is the victim in an alleged sexual assault.

Griham escaped from a state prison in September while awaiting trial in the abduction, but he was captured two days later.

He was convicted last year of carjacking, being a felon in possession of a gun and using a firearm while kidnapping the lawyer. A federal judge sentenced him to life imprisonment earlier this month. He still awaits trial on state charges including kidnapping and rape.

Griham pleaded guilty in May 1998 in the armed robberies of three stores in Mobile. Paroled from prison in August 2005 after serving about eight years of a 20-year prison term, he moved to a halfway house in Birmingham.

The suit claims that rather than freeing Griham, Alabama should have sent him to Mississippi, where he had previous convictions on charges of robbery and grand larceny.

Officials in Mississippi had requested his return, the complaint said.

Alabama officials previously said Mississippi never filed documents seeking the return of Griham and instead waived a request to be notified of his parole.

In a statement, the lawyer said state officials should be held accountable for what happened to her.

"Knowing that what I went through would have never happened if certain officials had done their jobs is very upsetting," she said.

Griham had 13 previous felony convictions in three states, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Montgomery because state agencies are based in the capital.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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