Florida inmate Web sites mostly a fantasy
The women, most from Florida, apparently starred unknowingly on sites a West Virginia man created using public records and fiction.
By CANDACE RONDEAUX
Published February 19, 2006
Julie, 5-foot-10 and 152 pounds, is a "real hard body" looking for a "Free World man." Alexa is "intelligent, witty, damned attractive and even more so without her uniform." Sabrina? "Strictly hetero" and "very creative in expressing her fantasies."
Strangers have ogled their photos and read their alleged sexual histories on Web sites assembled by a West Virginia man.
Charles Arthur Aston chose his subjects from an unlikely venue: Florida's prison system.
Inmates doing time for crimes from fraud to murder, they and scores of others apparently never consented to inclusion on his two Internet user groups, Sexy_Female_Lifers and Long_Term_Female_Inmates.
Some are married. Some are mothers.
Aston, a 63-year-old Civil Air Patrol volunteer masquerading as a 50-year-old prison employee, portrayed the inmates as sex-starved vixens who hand it out to Florida prison officials every chance they get. The inmate profiles mix fact and fantasy, drawing partly on public records that describe the women and their crimes.
"They understand that they only have one thing to trade," an introductory page on one of the sites read. "Assaults of female inmates by prison staff members are very rare. There's no need to force anyone when so many are willing to give it away for small favors or the pleasure they naturally crave."
Florida's Corrections Department said Aston is not an employee and that allegations of sex between inmates and prison employees appear unfounded.
Aston took down his Web sites this week after the St. Petersburg Times started asking questions.
For months, members of his Yahoo Web groups have traded factoids, fantasies and fallacies about more than 100 female inmates - most of them from Florida. Many of the profiles included photos of women prisoners in sexually provocative poses and revealing outfits, and several included personal photos from inmates' weddings and prison visits.
The elaborate Internet profiles featured publicly available information about the women's criminal histories, detail what appear to be fictionalized disciplinary actions for sexual misconduct behind bars and include comments from anonymous sources who purport to have been intimate with the inmates.
"I need a cold shower after watching her take a hot one," one commentator wrote of a Homestead Correctional Institution inmate sentenced to 27 years for second-degree murder.
First reached by telephone at his home in Hedgesville, W.V., on Feb. 10, when his sites were still active, Aston admitted creating them in July. Aston, a second lieutenant in the West Virginia Civil Air Patrol, said most of the information on the sites - names, ages, criminal offenses and disciplinary records - is freely available under Florida's public records law.
"I'm just trying to put a human face on the problems of incarcerated individuals. People tend to view them as monsters but they're human beings," Aston said. "The main thing is to try to get people thinking."
The Corrections Department launched an investigation in December.
Tim Yaw of the department's Inspector General's Office said an employee, Luther Floyd, learned of the sites while surfing the Internet at home and alerted Yaw's office.
Officials grew alarmed, Yaw said, when they learned that the moderator identified himself as a Florida prison official named "Dave Smith." About 400 people signed up to access each of Aston's user groups.
"We were doing a criminal investigation because of the things that he said in there, as far as sexual battery and stuff," Yaw said. "We checked all the Dave Smiths within the Department of Corrections."
Investigators learned Aston's identity by subpoenaing Yahoo for information. Yaw said they tried to contact Aston through the West Virginia Civil Air Patrol, but Aston's supervisors refused to give investigators any information.
Corrections Department officials said they did not have Aston's phone number and did not call him during their initial investigation.
Aston's number is listed, and a Times reporter reached him twice this week.
Aston said he never made a formal public records request. He said he received much of his information from publicly available Web sites. But he also said that some of his sources included department officials.
"There are people on the inside with whom I interface," Aston said.
Department spokesman Robby Cunningham said investigators found no evidence of criminal activity or that employees had any connection to the sites. The department closed the investigation earlier this month, Cunningham said.
Days after the Times began its inquiry, investigators reached Aston. Cunningham said Aston denied knowing anyone in Florida or receiving information from department employees.
Investigators interviewed eight of the 110 female inmates profiled. The inmates said reports about prison sex were unfounded, Cunningham said. As for the personal photos, most of the women said they recalled sending them to prison pen pal Web sites years ago.
"They clearly are offensive," Cunningham said of the postings, "and if any inmate has a complaint about it - a formal complaint - then we'll look into it. If this is true or not, they are free to put what they want on the Internet," Cunningham said. "That doesn't mean that we necessarily agree with it."
Steve Ormrod isn't convinced. A British man who has been corresponding with one of the women, he said he was shocked to see a photo he had taken at a visit with his fiance, Broward Correctional Institution inmate Paula Grieve.
"The fact that I'm featured on it is absolutely revolting. Those pictures were put up there without my consent and without Paula's consent," Ormrod said.
Ormrod, 41, began writing Grieve, 30, about five years ago. Grieve, who is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder, told Ormrod in a letter that she felt violated by the Web sites, he said.
Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Candace Rondeaux can be reached at (813) 226-3337.
[Last modified February 19, 2006, 01:07:06]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]