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Private Jail Operator Who Had Hoodwinked Judge Draws 120 Days

Times Staff Writer

A Municipal Court judge, angry that he had been hoodwinked, ordered a 120-day jail term Monday for a private jail operator who had previously persuaded the judge to sentence him to a corrections program the defendant founded and incorporated.

“I think a fraud was perpetrated on me,” Presiding Judge Thomas Gligorea of the South Bay Municipal Court said as he placed Glen Cornist of San Diego in custody. “I think I was had, to put it mildly.”

When Cornist pleaded guilty last month to driving under the influence--his third such conviction since 1983--Gligorea placed him on three years’ probation and ordered him to serve 120 days in California Halfway Houses Inc., a private work-furlough center in downtown San Diego.

Cornist requested the placement because he feared for his safety if he was jailed. He submitted a letter from the president of the company, Richard P.M. Bowden II, that Gligorea said he took to mean that Cornist had no connection with the work-furlough center.

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But a week ago, Cornist’s estranged wife, Barbara Cornist, presented Gligorea with state corporation records identifying Glen Cornist as the founder of California Halfway Houses, prompting his detention and Monday’s hearing.

Gligorea accepted the records as formal evidence during the hearing. Though Glen Cornist told Gligorea that he was not the operator of the program, his wife testified that he had an office at California Halfway Houses and was still affiliated with the center.

The judge found the evidence of Glen Cornist’s ties to the company convincing.

“You own that company,” Gligorea said, glaring at the Southeast San Diego man. “If I had been made aware of that when I sentenced you, do you know what your chances would have been of going to that halfway house?”

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He paused, then answered his own question: “You would have had two chances, as Dizzy Dean used to say--slim and none.”

Gligorea directed Deputy Dist. Atty. Dianna Davis to subpoena Bowden to appear in court next week to answer questions about California Halfway Houses, one of a handful of private work-furlough programs opened in San Diego in the last two years as a low-cost alternative to the county’s overcrowded jail system.

The private centers--which allow prisoners to work during the day while remaining locked up at night--are not regulated by local, state or federal authorities.

Bowden could not be reached for comment Monday. He told The Times last week that Glen Cornist had been a consultant to the center in the past, but he declined to answer questions about Glen Cornist’s current capacity. Bowden said at least four other Municipal Court judges had placed offenders with California Halfway Houses.

A complaint in San Diego County Municipal Court accuses Richard Perry Miles Bowden II of misdemeanor charges of carrying a concealed weapon and carrying a loaded firearm within the city limits. Bowden denied Saturday that he was the man in the complaint.

Glen Cornist owned the county’s first--and for a time, most successful--private work-furlough program, Western States Re-Entry Program. The Southeast San Diego center closed during the summer, after an inquiry by a Superior Court judge into a prisoner’s allegations of unsanitary conditions and probation officers’ concerns about the program’s management.

Glen Cornist also is the owner of Model Ex-Offenders Inc., a halfway house that contracts with the state Department of Corrections to house state prison parolees. According to department officials, the company was paid about $350,000 by the state in the year ended June 30; its contract this year allows maximum payments of $445,000.

As conditions of his probation on the latest drunken-driving conviction, Glen Cornist was ordered not to drink, and his driving privilege was suspended. At the hearing Monday, Barbara Cornist testified that she had seen her husband driving and had smelled alcohol on his breath during the last few weeks. She also testified that two weeks ago he threatened to kill her and held a gun to her head.

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“Whatever happens to him today, it’s not because I’m trying to get even,” she said. “It’s because I want him to get help.”

Glen Cornist denied the allegations. His attorney, Alfred Greene, argued that Barbara Cornist had made the charges to gain an advantage in the couple’s divorce proceedings.

“The only allegations brought forward are very suspect and should be given the weight they deserve,” Greene said. He urged Gligorea to ask the county Probation Department to investigate the case.

Instead, Gligorea sent Glen Cornist to jail for 120 days and warned that he could be sentenced to as much as a year in custody if further investigation corroborated more of his wife’s claims.

“Even those of us who have been here 16 years and have heard a lot of stories--sometimes we’re taken in, also,” Gligorea said. “And I was taken in on this one.”


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