Glen Cornist, a Southeast San Diego man who operates private jail programs for state and county prisoners, could be sent to jail himself today in Chula Vista.
Convicted last month of drunken driving, Cornist now is under suspicion of having bamboozled a court into letting him serve his sentence at one of the programs with which he has ties.
Presiding Judge Thomas Gligorea of the South Bay Municipal Court revoked Cornist's probation on the drunken driving charge last week after learning of the apparent conflict, according to court records and a county prosecutor. Gligorea ordered Cornist to answer for his conduct this afternoon in court, where he could be sentenced to a year in jail.
State officials, who have a $445,000 contract with Cornist to run a halfway house for prison inmates, plan to look into the allegations as well.
"We'll certainly want to find out more of the facts about the situation and do whatever's appropriate on our end," said Mike Badstubner, reentry coordinator for the Parole Division of the California Department of Corrections in Santa Ana.
Neither Cornist nor his attorney, Alfred Greene of San Diego, could be reached for comment.
According to South Bay court records, Cornist pleaded guilty Aug. 28 to drunken driving--his third such conviction in slightly more than three years. A charge of driving with a license suspended for prior drunken driving convictions was dismissed as part of a plea bargain.
Gligorea placed Cornist on three years' probation, on the condition that he not drive without a license and that he not drink. He also was required to spend 120 days in a private work-furlough program, where he could work during the day and be locked up at night.
Gligorea assigned Cornist to serve the 120 days at California Halfway Houses Inc., a recently opened work-furlough center in downtown San Diego.
Last week, however, Cornist's estranged wife, Barbara Cornist, informed Gligorea that Cornist is the owner and operator of California Halfway Houses, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Dianna Davis.
Documents provided by Barbara Cornist--who recently filed for divorce from Cornist and owns a competing work-furlough center--along with an affidavit saying Cornist had been seen drinking and driving prompted the court last Monday to issue a warrant for Cornist's arrest, Davis said.
"It would appear that he was seen driving, he was seen drinking, and he is the owner of the halfway house to which he was work-furloughed--all of which, if proven up, would show he's in violation of the probation," Davis said. "It's unlikely the judge would have issued such an order knowing he was the owner-operator of the facility."
Cornist was briefly jailed Monday on the warrant but was released after posting $2,000 bail. Gligorea issued another warrant for his arrest almost immediately, based on a report that Cornist had threatened his wife and an employee of California Halfway Houses, Davis said.
Gligorea declined to comment on the pending case.
Cornist is listed as California Halfway Houses Inc.'s registered agent with the California Secretary of State's office. But a letter in court files accepting Cornist into the program did not disclose the ties.
The letter, on the company's stationery, is addressed to Greene and signed by Richard P.M. Bowden II--who Barbara Cornist says is her cousin. Bowden is identified in the letter as the president of California Halfway Houses.
"Mr. Cornist indicated during our personal interview that he was a special consultant on a pending return-to-custody facility to be operated by the California Dept. of Corrections," the letter says. "In fact, he has been affiliated with the Department of Corrections and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons for a period of 17 years."
The letter says Cornist will be accepted by California Halfway Houses only if he participates in an in-house alcohol dependency program and complies with all the conditions of his probation.
"We have discussed all of these matters in depth with Mr. Cornist and he has signed an agreement to comply with all of the conditions we have outlined," it says.
Bowden--who describes himself in a brochure for the company as a former Fulton County, Ga., deputy sheriff--said Saturday that he was not present in Gligorea's court when the judge placed Cornist with California Halfway Houses.
He confirmed that he was the president of the company and listed four San Diego judges who had placed offenders in its work-furlough program. Cornist, he said, "was a consultant with the corporation." But Bowden declined to answer questions about Cornist's current ties to the work-furlough center.
"If I have any questions to answer, I'll answer them to the judge," Bowden said.
Badstubner said Friday that it was inaccurate to describe Cornist as a "consultant" on a Department of Corrections facility. Rather, he said Cornist had approached the department about leasing a site to firms interested in operating a detention facility for nonviolent parole violators.