Thursday, March 11, 2004

Inmate slugs Erpenbeck over TV

He wanted to watch something different

By James McNair
The Cincinnati Enquirer

About two weeks into his incarceration at the Hamilton County Justice Center, former homebuilder Bill Erpenbeck got into a scuffle with another inmate.

During an argument over Erpenbeck's choice of television programming, Erpenbeck, 43, was hit by a 20-year-old murder suspect, a sheriff's department spokesman said Wednesday.

Steve Barnett said the altercation occurred shortly before 6:30 p.m. Feb. 22, 17 days after Erpenbeck and his father, Tony Erpenbeck, were jailed on witness-tampering charges in connection with the sentencing phase of Bill Erpenbeck's bank-fraud conviction.

Barnett said the men were in a common area called a pod, where inmates share a TV.

After the inmates argued, "apparently over the TV and what was on," the younger inmate, Drew Sloan, punched Erpenbeck in the face and Erpenbeck reported the incident to an officer, Barnett said.

"If he hadn't, they probably would have gone in there and broken them up," Barnett said.

It was unclear what program triggered the dispute.

Barnett said Sloan, of Cincinnati, is charged in the Dec. 21 killing of Lamont Ross, which allegedly took place during a robbery.

Court records show Sloan has been jailed nine times on drug charges, aggravated robbery charges and domestic-assault charges.

Barnett said Sloan was confined to his cell for 10 days after the confrontation with Erpenbeck.

There was no indication that Erpenbeck needed medical attention.

Erpenbeck and his father are being held without bail on witness-tampering charges. Bill Erpenbeck is scheduled to be sentenced for bank fraud March 29.

Enquirer reporter Jane Prendergast contributed to this story. E-mail

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