Saudi royal family member chooses the Dukes jail after motor vehicle homicide
Dukes County House of Correction in Edgartown. File Photo by Ralph Stewart
The well-known appeal Martha's Vineyard has for royal visitors apparently extends to the Dukes County House of Correction.
The small jail and correctional facility located on Upper Main Street in Edgartown is where Bader al-Saud, a member of Saudi Arabia's extended royal family, asked to serve one year in jail in connection with a fatal traffic accident in Boston in 2002.
Mr. al-Saud, 23, was sentenced to two years in jail with one year suspended after pleading guilty to motor vehicle homicide while operating under the influence of alcohol and driving without a license, both misdemeanors, according to a report published in the Boston Globe.
Three years ago Mr. al-Saud, then a student at Suffolk University, struck and killed Orlando Ramos, 37, shortly after leaving a downtown Boston nightclub with a friend.
As part of a plea deal between the court, Suffolk District Attorney's office, and defense attorneys, Mr. al-Saud, who feared for his safety, will be allowed to serve his jail time on Martha's Vineyard.
Michael McCormack, Dukes County sheriff, said it is his understanding that prosecutors reached a plea deal because there was concern about the likelihood of winning a guilty verdict in the case, and they wanted to be sure that Mr. al-Saud served some jail time.
Sheriff McCormack said that he was notified after the issue of Mr. al-Saud's safety arose if he were to be placed in the Suffolk County corrections system, and the judge instructed the defense attorney to identify a suitable safe location. Mr. McCormack said he was thoroughly briefed about the case, and then asked to confirm that Mr. al-Saud would be safer in the Dukes County facility.
Mr. McCormack said that under special circumstances he does accept off-Island prisoners, but the decision to accept off-Island offenders - whatever their pedigree or royal connections - rests with him. "It could not have happened without my consultation and my acceptance," said Mr. McCormack of his Saudi inmate.
The news of Mr. al-Saud's Vineyard incarceration generated press reports that likened spending time in the aging House of Correction to a stint in a shabby bed and breakfast.
Sheriff McCormack downplayed that notion. He said irrespective of the location, what Americans prize most is their freedom and that is what an individual loses when he or she spends time in any jail. "I think that anyone who thinks there is a cushy incarceration doesn't really understand incarceration and the concept of incarceration as a punishment meted out by the court," he said.
Mr. al-Saud will be spending his time in a medium-security 10-bed dormitory room. According to Mr. McCormack there are currently 28 inmates serving time for various offenses.
Those who earn the privilege are sometimes allowed outside of the facility to pick up litter along Island roadways or perform other community service. Because the Federal immigration and naturalization service has asked to take custody of Mr. al-Saud after he completes his sentence, it is unlikely he will be able to enjoy the Vineyard scenery outside the house of correction until he leaves the Vineyard.
Mr. al-Saud is not the first high-profile off-Island prisoner to serve time on the Vineyard. In 1993 Matthew Stuart was transferred to the Vineyard jail for his safety. Mr. Stuart was serving time in connection with his role in one of Boston's most notorious murders.
In 1989 his brother, Charles Stuart, killed his pregnant wife Carol DiMaiti Stuart and tried to blame the crime on a black man. He later jumped to his death from the Tobin Bridge.
Mr. McCormack said he makes no secret of the fact that from time to time the house of correction contains prisoners from off-Island.
In the near future, Sheriff McCormack hopes to replace the antiquated Dukes County Jail and House of Correction with a new modern corrections facility on property adjacent to the Martha's Vineyard Airport. Current conceptual plans call for a facility with approximately double the inmate capacity.
That has generated concerns about that empty beds could result in an influx of off-Island prisoners. Sheriff McCormack maintains that in most cases he would be able to determine when an inmate could serve time in the Vineyard house of correction.