PA inmate emerges as possibility in faux Arias lawsuit
Jodi Arias (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
A Pennsylvania jail inmate has emerged as a possible suspect in a mysterious lawsuit filed on behalf of convicted Arizona murderer Jodi Arias.
Arias' attorneys Jennifer Willmott and Kirk Nurmi say neither Arias nor anyone on her defense team filed the lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and CNN on-air personality Nancy Grace earlier this month.
Meanwhile, a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections press secretary confirmed to CBS 5 News that Jonathan Lee Riches, 37, has a history of filing bogus lawsuits.
The Smoking Gun reported that Riches is currently in jail for a probation violation for leaving the state for Newtown, CT, and posing as a family member of Sandy Hook Elementary shooter Adam Lanza.
Riches has filed hundreds of fake lawsuits, including ones involving entertainer Selena Gomez, singer Justin Bieber, NFL coach Bill Belichick, former baseball player Barry Bonds, Kim Kardashian and more, confirmed Susan McNaughton of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
In 2009, Guinness listed Riches as the person with the most lawsuits in the world. Once it was official, Riches sued Guinness for slander, McNaughton confirmed.
Most recently, Riches posed as Alison Ernst, the Arizona woman in custody for throwing a shoe at Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas, and filed a lawsuit against Colorado theater shooter James Holmes in 2012.
Willmott told CBS 5 News the suit filed April 4 in U.S. District Court is completely false and she doesn't know who would have filed it.
In the lawsuit, Arias allegedly claims her health is fading while confined to the Lower Buckeye Jail and she is blaming it on Arpaio.
Grace, the outspoken TV personality of CNN, is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit. Arias claims the two of them have violated her privacy and damaged her chances at a fair trial in the death penalty phase of her case.
Willmott said two things raised red flags. Arias is housed in the Estrella Jail while the return address on the lawsuit lists the Fourth Avenue Jail. Willmott also said the signature on the lawsuit doesn't match that which is on Arias' driver's license.
Nurmi reiterated Willmott's comments in a statement released Monday afternoon.
"The assertions made in the motion supposedly filed by Ms. Arias in which a protection order is being sought against Nancy Grace and Sheriff Arpaio was not filed by Ms. Arias nor her defense team. For this reason, we make no representations regarding the assertions made in this motion. Instead of responding to this fabricated motion, we will continue to submit our motions based on verifiable facts and we will continue to defend Ms. Arias' life."
Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in the brutal death of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in June 2008.
Also listed with Arias as a plaintiff in the lawsuit is Christopher Alexander of 301 Institution Dr., Bellefonte, PA. Christopher Alexander is identified as a cousin of Travis Alexander and was recently released from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
A Google Maps search shows a Pennsylvania corrections facility at that address.
The lawsuit also alleges Arias has been defamed by Arpaio and Grace, claiming Arpaio leaked sensual letters between Arias and Christopher Alexander to Grace. The suit claims they have been reporting a sexual relationship between the plaintiffs, that they have been pen pals for five years and that the two are planning to be married.
"Evidently, she's trying to get some media attention. I cut out all visits with her," Arpaio said.
While she awaits the death penalty phase of her trail, she's apparently hoping to get the attention of the courts in a different way. Legal documents obtained by TMZ reveal Arias took out a restraining order against the sheriff, and she didn't have the assistance of her lawyers. She filed the order on her own.
"If the judge, if the courts rule, yes. But I don't know what she wants me stop," Arpaio added.
She claims in the court papers she contracted hepatitis C after receiving a tuberculosis shot from an infected needle.
She also claims her left silicone breast implant leaked and caused a fungal growth.
"This is something that comes under the correctional health, the county," Arpaio said. "They take care of our inmates. So this is something I will have to look at next week."
He claimed an interview with CBS 5 News on Saturday was the first he heard of Arias having any sort of illness.
"I've never heard any information," Arpaio said. "My people know if there is any problem, they're going to tell the sheriff because she is a high-profile inmate known to make up stories, and I have to be careful what I say because she is still in the court system."
Healthcare inside all of the Maricopa County jails is handled by a private contractor known as Correctional Health Systems. They say whenever an inmate has a medical concern, all that inmate has to do is fill out a form and give it to a detention officer, who will then escort that patient to the infirmary.
As it relates to Arias, a spokeswoman for Maricopa County said they are not aware of Arias having any medical issues.
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