Judge Denies Inmate Religious Request for Sword

A convicted killer's lawsuit that sought items for the practice of an ancient European religion has been thrown out of court.

Darrell Hoadley of Lead wanted a toy sword and other privileges for the practice of Asatru. His original handwritten complaint listed himself as counsel elder of the Asatru religious group at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

Hoadley was convicted of murder for his part in the 2000 torture slaying of Chester Allan Poage near Spearfish.

Hoadley had said he sued prison staff because they denied some of his requests while members of other religions have received similar privileges.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol dismissed the case. He adopted the recommendation of Magistrate John Simko, who said Hoadley's opportunity to practice Asatru has not been "meaningfully curtailed."

Prison officials already permit several items for Asatru followers, including a wooden hammer.

Some religious experts consider Asatru a pagan religion that can be interpreted as encouraging violence. It has becoming popular among prison inmates, one of whom was executed in Virginia for killing a fellow prisoner at the foot of an altar.

In his report and recommendation, Simko had concluded that Hoadley already has access to nearly all the items he requested and has acknowledged that his security status does not allow him to take part in the religious activities.

Hoadley had asked for 23 ritual items, 10 reference materials and other requests, including visits from people who also practice the religion.

He had sued Warden Doug Weber, Associate Warden Dennis Block, Cultural Activities Coordinator Jennifer Wagner and others.