Pinellas Inmate Refuses Food, Drink

Source: St. Petersburg Times
Date: November 15, 1994

A man awaiting trial on a number of burglary and rape charges is refusing to eat or drink anything while at the Pinellas County Jail.

So jail officials have gone to court, getting legal permission to insert a tube in the inmate's arm and give him liquids - the first time in a decade that they have taken such a step.

To leave the inmate alone, they said, could eventually lead to his death.

Paul Jay Meyer, 30, of Clearwater, won't eat or drink anything at the jail because he says "the Russians are tampering with the food," sheriff's office spokesman Sgt. Greg Tita said Monday.

Meyer was arrested three years ago when Clearwater police, alerted by neighbors, captured him in the bedroom of a woman who had screamed for help. Police said Meyer slipped in through an open window, rifled the woman's purse and then tried to rape her.

Police also charged Meyer with breaking into two other homes and repeatedly raping a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old. Police said Meyer even stole the Christmas gifts from under the tree at one house but left them unopened outside.

Meyer told police he was employed by the Church of Scientology. Church officials said he had been hired to work on building renovation projects but had not been employed by the church for months.

Earlier this year Meyer was found incompetent to stand trial, meaning experts had determined he was unable to grasp the operation of the court system or aid his lawyer in preparing a defense.

In May, Meyer was sent to Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee for treatment. After five months, experts there determined he was competent and last month he was returned to the Pinellas County Jail to await trial in May.

But since his return two weeks ago, Meyer has refused to eat or drink anything, said Janice Hill, health services administrator for the sheriff's office. While he once weighed 215 pounds, the 6-foot Meyer is now down to about 160 pounds, she said.

A healthy person can go several months without food, Hill said, but not without water. Dehydration can lead, step by step, to hallucinations, shock, kidney failure, heart failure and death.

"We would never let it go that long," Hill said.

Jail health officials closely have been monitoring Meyer's condition. The laboratory test results they saw last week prompted them to take emergency action at the start of the Veterans Day weekend.

"We just didn't want to face the long weekend with the condition he was in," Hill said.

Thursday evening the sheriff's attorney, Jean Kwall, went to Circuit Judge Frank Quesada seeking permission to give Meyer liquids against his will - and, if necessary, strap him down and sedate him while doing it.

Hill said the last time Pinellas jail officials had to take such an unusual step to keep an inmate healthy was 10 years ago.

Quesada held an emergency hearing at the jail. Meyer's defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Christopher Yeazell, followed his client's wishes and questioned the need for such a move.

But Quesada granted jail officials the permission to go ahead with the lifesaving procedure, for up to 90 days.

Hill said after the hearing, Meyer agreed to allow the tube to be inserted in his arm, so he did not have to be tied down or sedated.

But he is continuing his hunger strike. Jail officials hope Meyer will not pursue it so long that they will have to go to court for permission to force-feed him.

"That's big-time," Hill said. "We're hoping that he'll come out of this block that he has."

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