Charlotte, Florida - PUNTA GORDA -- The inmate who alleges he was coerced into eating his feces while detained at the Charlotte County Jail spoke exclusively about the incident with the Sun.
Mark Kapuscinski, 57, was removed by court order from Charlotte County last month and placed into the Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center in Indiantown, Florida, after he was deemed mentally unfit to proceed with his legal effort to vacate a 15-year prison sentence on drug charges for which he pleaded guilty in 2013. Kapuscinski was adjudicated guilty on separate cases filed against him in 2011 and 2012.
The inmate’s incredible allegations made headlines last month. His story gained credibility after Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell announced he had fired Corrections Deputy Michael Burnette for failing to report that he’d seen Kapuscinski put feces to his mouth.
Upon hearing from Kapuscinski that he was not eating, drinking water from the toilet, and denied toiletries and a Bible, his friends, Joel and Patricia Boyd, intervened by writing to Prummell. They also reached out to the Sun.
Prummell said an internal investigation found no evidence of torture.
Two other deputies with Burnette were not fired, according to Prummell, because jail video shows them walking away and not seeing the moment Kapuscinski put feces in his mouth. However, they were reprimanded and required to undergo additional training because they heard what Kapuscinski had done and failed to report anything.
For the first time, Kapuscinski offered his firsthand account of what he claims happened during his self-described hellish six-week stay at the jail. He told his story to the Sun in a series of phone calls from the Treasure Coast hospital.
Kapuscinski said he had reservations about returning to the Charlotte County Jail in late June to contest the sentence handed him in 2013. He knew he was heading back to a county and jail where he helped convict others as a confidential informant working for the Sheriff’s Office.
"Everybody there knows I’m a snitch," the inmate said. "I’m extremely hated there."
'Eat your own (feces)’
Kapuscinski said his problems with Burnette began as soon as he asked a nurse in the medical wing of the jail for a cotton blanket because he’s allergic to wool. He said the request for the cotton blanket irritated Burnette.
"He made a comment questioning my masculinity," Kapuscinski said.
Kapuscinski said the guard began questioning whether he indeed was suffering from mental illness.
"'If you’re mentally ill, you’ll eat your own (feces),’" Kapuscinski recalled the guard telling him. "'When you get to your cell, you’re going to put your pants down, take (feces) in your hand and eat it.’"
Investigators who interviewed Kapuscinski about the incident said in their report that the inmate told them no one forced him to eat his feces.
Kapuscinski told the Sun otherwise. He said he didn’t trust his interrogators.
The inmate said he remembered being in his cell with Burnette and two other deputies standing shoulder to shoulder blocking the cell door.
"You know what you have to do," Kapuscinski said he remembered Burnette telling him. "I remember being upset by this time. I knew what was coming."
As the corrections deputies remained shoulder to shoulder at his cell door, Kapuscinski said Burnette once again told him: "You’re going to put your pants down."
Kapuscinski described what happened next.
"I (poop) in my hand and put it in my mouth," he said. "The two officers with Burnette walk away. ... Burnette tells me 'I want to see you do it again.’"
Kapuscinski said he remembers telling Burnette, "See, you’re happy. I am crazy."
It was then that Burnette walked away, according to Kapuscinski.
"His face freaked out," the inmate said. "There was a trustee behind (Burnette). He saw the whole thing."
Kapuscinski compared what happened to him to that of an old lady who gets cornered by three street thugs demanding her money. Using the analogy, Kapuscinski asked whether the thugs did nothing wrong because the old lady handed over her money.
"If what (Burnette) said was true, that I ate my own feces on my own, then why did he get fired?" Kapuscinski asked.
Kapuscinski described the Burnette episode as just the beginning of a harrowing nightmare.
"I had no toothpaste, no toilet paper, no clothes, nothing," he said. "They shut the water off to my cell. I refused to eat or take anything. I started drinking water out of the toilet."
Kapuscinski said he slept very little because it was so cold in the cell and the lights were kept on 24/7. He said his regular inmate clothing was taken away and replaced with a bulky shroud. He said the thick and woolly garment irritated his skin, was too bulky to wear and didn’t completely cover his body. He described it as "a shroud you put over a corpse." Kapuscinski said he rolled it up and used it as a pillow.
The inmate said he refused to eat, thinking his food would be poisoned. Also, he thought that depriving himself of food would mean he’d not have to fear having to eat his feces again.
Sheriff responds to allegations
In a rebuttal, Prummell, whose office oversees the jail, said the shroud is given to inmates on suicide watch because it can’t be used to hang oneself. Prummell also said Kapuscinski was given a hygiene pack that includes toothpaste, which is then taken away as a precaution.
"Believe it or not, we’ve seen where they can take the toothbrush and they whittle that down where they have a nice sharp object. So that stuff is given to them, they use it and then it’s taken back away. Whenever they need it, they ask for it and they get it."
Prummell did confirm Kapuscinski’s allegation that water was shut off to his cell.
"When he went on his food strike, I guess the medical personnel at that point wanted to monitor his fluid intake," Prummell said. "They were providing him fluids through cups so they could monitor how much (water) he was taking."
Jail records indicate that Kapuscinski spent 18 days without food and eight days without water, according to Prummel. However, the sheriff said the water in the cell was not shut off from the inmate’s cell during the entire eight-day period he went without water.
Although Prummell said the inmate was getting cups of fluids from the nursing staff, Kapuscinski gave the Sun a different account.
"I had to pee on the floor and drink the toilet water," he said. "The water was recycled water not meant for human consumption. ... The effects of drinking the repulsive, dirty water caused me to hallucinate and become dehydrated. After two and a half days, my blood pressure became so dangerously high I had to be taken to a hospital because a nurse was afraid I might die of dehydration."
Medical records provided to the Sun indicate that Kapuscinski was transported to the emergency room at Bayfront Health Punta Gorda on July 2. He was treated for dehydration, weakness and a genetic tendency for high cholesterol.
While at the jail, Kapuscinski said he did not eat for 17 days for lack of desire and the taste of feces in his mouth.
"I begged for toothpaste for weeks..." he said. "Finally, after two weeks I was given toothpaste."
Kapuscinski talked freely about his work as an informant. He is collaborating with his attorney, Mary Fitzgibbons of Orlando, on proposed legislation intended to disqualify people like himself with mental illness from being recruited by law enforcement to work as confidential informants.
Fitzgibbons said she’s looking for lawmakers to champion the legislation, which would be known as The Mark Kapuscinski Safe Use Act.
Fitzgibbon’s effort to vacate Kapuscinski’s sentence in 2013 through a motion for post-conviction raised ethical questions about the use of mentally ill men and women as informants.
The motion Fitzgibbons filed July 14, 2015, indicates that Kapuscinski worked for the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office as a confidential informant. In the motion Fitzgibbons writes:
"Kapuscinski had put in almost a year working for CCSO, helping them with about 60 or more low-end deals, and was left with nothing to show for it but death threats, 15 years in prison and a fine of $50,000."
Court filings made by Fitzgibbons state that her client "was committed at least twice to a State hospital for psychiatric treatment." She states that Kapuscinski also received federal Supplemental Security Income "due to mental disability."
Saying he never knew Kapuscinski on a "one-to-one basis," Prummell steered clear of talking about or even acknowledging Kapuscinski’s past as a confidential informant because it would put the inmate or any other informant in danger.
Recently, Kapuscinski was released from Treasure Coast hospital by court order and transported back to the Wakulla Correctional Institution near Tallahassee. According to doctors, Kapuscinski "has regained competence" to proceed with his motion for postconviction relief.
In the meantime, Circuit Judge Donald Mason has stepped aside from presiding over Kapuscinski’s postconviction relief efforts at the request of the inmate’s attorney. Mason headed the felony division at the State Attorney’s Office at the time that Kapuscinski was facing drug charges.
Circuit Judge George C. Richards took over the case from Mason. Richards set a status hearing on the case for today.
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