Tuesday, February 09, 1999

Smokin' Louie under duress in jail, girlfriend claims

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Smokin' Louie, a radio personality known for his activism in favor of marijuana, is in the Kenton County jail for owing more than $5,000 in child support.

        That makes his girlfriend, the Happy Hemptress, smokin' mad.

        Lynne Wilson also is a radio personality on “HempRock,” a Wednesday night program on WAIF-FM. She said her boyfriend, whose real name is Louis Browning, is being harassed at the jail because of his beliefs.

        She alleged guards are letting inmates beat him and steal his possessions because of the controversial positions he takes on the radio. She also accuses Kenton County Jail employees of feeding him bad bologna and unfairly placing him in an isolation cell.

        “This is not a publicity stunt,” she said. “This is your standard harassment. He's a brave man. He's a fighter. He speaks his mind. They're definitely treating him worse because of who he is.”

        Maj. Rodney Ballard, who handles internal investigations at the Kenton County Jail, called the allegations ludicrous.

        “These things ... don't even deserve a response,” he said. “We're in the business of housing inmates. None of us are here to harm anybody.”

Similar stories
        There is disagreement over a fight that happened in the jail about three weeks ago. It led to Mr. Browning going to the hospital and receiving three stitches in his head. Some teeth were broken, too.

        Mr. Browning has said that inmates were stealing from him and had painted himself as a victim, Maj. Ballard said. Yet there were at least 10 other inmates in the cell, he said, and they all agreed that Mr. Browning started the fight by slinging water on his cellmates.

        Maj. Ballard said Mr. Browning's and his antagonists were immediately separated. Still, their stories were similar and jibed with those told by other inmates. “The nuts and bolts are identical,” he said.

        Ms. Wilson has said the inmates were angry with Mr. Browning's beliefs. Maj. Ballard said that doesn't make sense.

        “Why would inmates harass him for pot activism when probably two-thirds of them smoke pot?” he asked.

Vow of poverty
        Ms. Wilson is angry that her boyfriend was placed in an isolation cell after he returned from the hospital. Maj. Ballard said that's standard procedure.

        Mr. Browning has been sentenced to 90 days in the Kenton County Jail because he has failed to keep up with child support payments of $115 a week. He divorced his wife, mother of their 3-year-old son, about a year ago.

        Mr. Browning is not paid for his radio work. In court documents, he contended that his religious beliefs moved him to take a vow of poverty.

        The fact that he is in jail because he has failed to keep up with his child support payments goes against his right to religious freedom, the court documents stated.

        Ronnie L. Smith, who goes by the name Rev. Roland A. Duby on HempRock radio, has been representing him. Mr. Smith, a Libertarian, ran an unsuccessful race for Gallatin County Sheriff last year.

        He said he plans to file court documents in U.S. District Court today, contending that Mr. Browning's constitutional rights are being violated.


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