A convicted armed robber who has four years left on his prison sentence has been on a yearlong hunger strike in a dispute over a prison drug test.
William Lecuyer, 34, a former Toms River High School East football player who once weighed 230, has shrunk to 120 pounds and has difficulty breathing because of the loss of muscle mass, his attorney said.
The state went to court in June in an effort to force-feed him, but was rebuffed. The court agreed with Lecuyer he had a First Amendment right to refuse food.
Now, his lawyer is trying to work out an agreement with the New Jersey State Prison that will end his standoff with correction officials and get him eating again.
Hunger strikes this long are extremely rare, according to Lee Moore, a spokesman for the Atttorney General's Office, and state authorities cannot recall going to court before this case to try to force an inmate to eat.
"After a while, you're not hungry anymore," Lecuyer told The Star-Ledger of Newark in a telephone interview last week. "I don't want to die, but I'm not afraid of it."
Lecuyer has refused solid food but has accepted intravenous solutions at least four times, his attorney, Jean Ross of Princeton, told the Ledger. Since December, she said, he has had one nutritional drink, such as an Ensure, at least once a week.
The inmate has been challenging the prison's refusal to let him examine a log book which tracks the comings and goings of people within a prison unit. He says it will prove he wrongly received time in administrative segregation during an attempt by guards a year-and-a-half ago to test him for drugs.
Prison officials say he simply refused to produce a urine sample when asked to, violating prison rules.
Lecuyer says guards didn't follow procedures — including giving him the test within a two-hour window — after a drug-sniffing dog came past his cell and detected something on June 14, 2011.
His latest appeal, Ross said, was denied last week by prison administrators.
Ross said Thursday she is proposing an administrative resolution to the dispute between Lecuyer and prison officials which she hopes will get her client eating again. He has also authorized her to seek an expedited appeal in the state courts if necessary.