The chief jailer at the Fairfax Country jail admitted in Circuit Court yesterday he had lied in the same court Tuesday when he denied using two prisoners to help build a shed at the home of Sheriff James D. Swinson.
Yesterday's court hearing was called to allow the jailer, Maj. John O. Feehan, to recant his previous testimony. After Feehan admitted using the prisoners to perform the work, he was charged with working a prisoner on private property for private property for private gain, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Feehan's initial denial on Tuesday came at a court hearing at which a prisoner, Ronald Lawhorne, who is jailed for killing his wife, testified that he and another prisoner and Feehan had done work a Sheriff Swinson's Great Falls home in September.
Fairfax County Commonwealths's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said Feehan and Swinson came to his office yesterday morning and said Feehan wanted to recant.
On the witness stand yesterday, Feehan testified he wanted to recant "the part about taking Ronald Lawhorne to the sheriff's place to do some work" last Sept. 1.
Another prisoner, serving a two-year sentence for burglary, went with Lawhorne and Feehan to pour concrete for a 12 by 16-foot shed at the sheriff's home, according to Feehan and Horan.
Swinson said earlier this week he had hired Feehan and Feehan's uncle to build the shed on their own time and denied knowledge of the use of prisoners on the project.
Feehan said Lawhorne asked him several times to let him do the work at Swinson's house so he decided to let him do it.The two prisoners poured concrete for two hours, Feehan said. Lawhorne formerly was a foreman at an Alexandria constructing company, Horan said.
Horan asked Feee han why he had lied previously.
"I work for an honorable man (Swinson) who was not awre that I brought a man out there," Feehm said. "I did not want to have any shame brought upon him or the department."
Feehan said he decided to recant because he had two sleepless nights.
"It's a case of being too damn softhearted, just softhearted," Swinson said about his chief corrections officer. Swinson said he will decide how to handle Feehan's case after he is tried in court, possibly as early as next week.
Feehan has been with the Sheriff's department about 14 years and has spent most of that time on duty at the jail, Swinson said.
Feehan declined to comment after the hearing.
The court's inquiry into the incident resulted from a hearing Dec. 21 at which Lawhorne asked to have his eight-year sentence reduced and two deputy sheriffs gave him glowing recommendations.
Circuit Judge Richard J. Jamborsky asked for the later hearing, saying he had learned that some of the testimony at the December hearing was "eigher inaccurate or incomplete."
Prosecutor Horan said yesterday he has no reason to believe Swinson was involved in the use of prisoners for the work at his home. He also said a county police investigator has been assigned to investigate the Sheriff's Department for any other possible wrongdoing.