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Rhode Island Pays $120,000 To Prisoner Forced To Eat Feces

The State of Rhode Island has paid $120,000 to settle with a prisoner who was forced by guards to eat his own feces.

While serving a six month sentence for shoplifting at the Adult Correctional Institution (ACI) in November 2006, Michael Walsh was confronted by six guards--including Captain Gaulter Botas, Lieutenant Kenneth Viveiros, and guard Ernest Spaziano--who accused him of possessing cigarettes. (Tobacco products are not allowed in the prison.) Walsh admitted he had 16 cigarettes hidden in his rectum and offered to remove them. But that wasn?t good enough for the guards.

Walsh was taken to a holding area and ordered to defecate on the floor to remove the cigarettes. He complied with the order and then attempted to wash his hands. The guards, however, felt Walsh was getting off too easy. ?You?re not getting off that free,? one of them allegedly stated. So, in order to ensure that he learned his lesson, the guards ordered him to wipe the feces off the cigarettes with his bare hands, search his own anal cavity with his fingers, and then insert his fingers into his mouth.

After the horror of the holding cell the guards took Walsh to an office.
There they continued the degradation while interrogating him about the contraband. One of the guards hit him in the head with a phone book.
Another laughed at him and asked, ?How?s your shit taste?? while still another joked: ?Don?t breathe on me. Your breath smells like shit.?

In settling the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, the State acknowledged the $120,000 payment to Walsh was potentially much cheaper than going to trial.

?The correctional officers in question allegedly caused substantial damages to an inmate in their care and custody,? Attorney General spokesman Michael Healey said in a statement. ?In an effort to try and do justice for Mr. Walsh, and, frankly, legally, because we were faced with bad facts, we believe that reaching an amicable settlement was and is in the taxpayers? best interest.?

There is also an apparent history of prisoner abuse by the same guards. On February 5, 2007?2 days before the state cut Walsh?s check?Botas, Viveiros, and Spaziano were convicted in federal court of assaulting another prisoner, Jose Gonzalez, while interrogating him about contraband soup packets found in his cell and suspicion of selling tobacco. The guards received suspended sentences and probation on the misdemeanor charges of simple assault. ACI officials have moved to terminate their employment for ?numerous violations of departmental policy.? The guards are appealing both their convictions and their firing.

Botas was also set to stand trial on February 6, 2007, for assaulting Walsh with the phone book. That trial was postponed after his attorney moved to have the case transferred to Superior Court for a jury trial. He is currently awaiting a new trial date.

Botas is the only guard who will stand trial for assaulting Walsh, and he is only charged with hitting Walsh with the phonebook because forcing prisoners to eat shit is not a crime in Rhode Island.

Botas will additionally stand trial for assaulting four other prisoners in minimum security, and Lieutenant Viveiros is awaiting a trial date in still another case of prisoner abuse.

Kenneth A. Schreiber of Cranston, Rhode Island, Walsh?s attorney, commented briefly after the case was filed last year. Walsh was strip-searched and ?forced to take [his own] fecal matter and put it in his mouth,? Schreiber said. ?I could get more graphic than that, but I?m not going to. I?m just going to tell you that it was a day later when he got to wash out his mouth.? Walsh received the $120,000 check on December 7, 2006. See: Walsh v. State of Rhode Island, USDC D RI, Case No: 1:06-CV-00346-ML-DLM.

Additional source: The Providence Journal

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Related legal case

Walsh v. State of Rhode Island