As N.J. prisoner's hunger strike hits one year, his health is failing
William Lecuyer is living off coffee, milk and sugar. Besides a few nutritional drinks, that's all he's been consuming for a year.
Once a 230-pound behemoth who played offensive lineman during his high school days in Toms River, N.J., the convicted armed robber in the custody of New Jersey State Prison in Trenton now weighs a measly 120 pounds.
Any day now, his lawyer Jean Ross says, Lecuyer will die.
"That's why I can't sleep at night," said the Princeton-based civil rights lawyer, who's working Lecuyer's case pro bono.
What is his case exactly? He's on a hunger strike until the prison and the N.J. Department of Corrections allows him to look at a prison log and other documents that he says will prove that he was wrongly accused of an infraction in June 2011 that he failed to produce urine for a drug test in 2011.
"I had hoped the Department of Corrections would have taken the opportunity to resolve this and save this man’s life but they did not take it," Ross said Thursday afternoon. "So I have to look to the judicial branch now instead of the executive branch."
She said Lecuyer is not crazy or suicidal, but actually incredibly disciplined.
"He reached a point where (he can go) no farther," she said. " "This is a principled nonviolent protest about problems that affect many many prisoners."
State officials disagree, telling The Star Ledger of Newark, N.J., that any lenency for Lecuyer — granting him access to the prison logbook — would set a precedent that other prisoners might heed in trying to get their demands met.
A recent court ruling determined that the state was not allowed to force feed Lecuyer in order to keep him alive, determining his hunger strike is protected by the First Amendment.
"I have stood on my head to say there are other ways to struggle for justice," Ross said. "He’s sticking as firm as the department is."
The 34-year-old has been in prison since May 2000 when he began serving a minimum of 17 years for four armed robberies committed in 1998 and 1999, according to Department of Corrections records. He is eligible for parole Dec. 26, 2017.
Contact Brian X. McCrone at 215-854-2267 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @brianxmccrone on Twitter.