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Virginia Guard Hazed By Coworkers Awarded $25,001

On March 1, 2006, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia awarded $25,001 to a prison guard who was subjected to a humiliating hazing ritual by his coworkers.

Guard Terry Givens was promoted to sergeant on December 21, 2000, while working at the Wallens Ridge supermax prison in Western Virginia. Knowing the promotion meant Givens would be going to another shift, two of his coworkers--guards Mike Mullins and Joey O?Quinn--decided to give him an impromptu send off. Mullins and O?Quinn handcuffed Givens to a table and removed his pants. They then taped his genitals and took photographs. A third guard, Captain Charley Janeway, was reportedly aware of the attack and failed to intervene.

Givens sued the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) claiming the guards? outrageous behavior and Janeway?s failure to intervene violated his constitutional rights. The VDOC contended the defendants? actions were merely horseplay and noted that O?Quinn and Mullins were demoted following the incident. Nevertheless, a jury found in favor of Givens and awarded him punitive damages of $5,000 each against Mullins and O?Quinn and $15,000 against Captain Janeway. The jury initially awarded no compensatory damages. But after the judge informed them there could, by definition, be no punitive damages without compensatory damages, the jury reconsidered and awarded Givens $1 in compensatory damages. Thus, the total award was $25,001.

It should be noted that Wallens Ridge has long been known for prisoner abuse [see PLN, January 2000, p. 17 for more]. And it?s no wonder. If guards treat each other this way, one can only imagine what they do to the prisoners. Judge James P. Jones presided. Givens was represented by Hilary K. Johnson of Abingdon, Virginia. See: Givens v. Virginia DOC, USDC WD VA, Case No. 2:02-214.

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Related legal case

Givens v. Virginia DOC