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Massachusetts Prison Officials Assault Prisoner With Feces, Settle Lawsuit for $5,000

In January 2009, Eric Bargoot, a Massachusetts prisoner who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder, as well as a heart condition, settled his § 1983 lawsuit for damages arising from events in September 2004, during which time the defendant prison officials locked him in a shower stall overnight, assaulted him with feces and urine, destroyed his personal property, refused to release him from the feces- and urine-covered stall, and denied him access to medical care. Bargoot received $5,000 in the settlement, as well as a zeroing-out of his remaining restitution balance accounts. In agreeing to settle, the defendants – Christopher Braddix and other prison guards, two sergeants, a lieutenant, a captain, and the former Superintendent of the Souza Baranowski Correctional center (SBCC) -- denied any wrongdoing or liability. Disciplinary sanctions sustained by Bargoot as a result of events which gave rise to the lawsuit remained undisturbed. All the parties agreed to nondisclosure of the fact or the terms of the settlement; responding to unsolicited inquiries, on the other hand, was not prohibited.

On the evening of September 17, 2004, about ten days after he had engaged in the misconduct of throwing food through the slot in the door of his SBCC Special Management Unit cell, two guards escorted Bargoot to a shower cubicle where, according to the complaint for damages he filed in 2008, he remained for approximately ten hours and endured the hellish, overnight events described above. Guard Braddix in particular was alleged to have assaulted Bargoot by shovel-ing human waste into the shower stall and onto Bargoot’s body and clothing.

This was not the first time that Massachusetts prison officials were accused of using human waste as an instrument of (unauthorized) punishment. In 2000, prisoners at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution – Cedar Junction filed a § 1983 lawsuit alleging that MCI-CJ officials had forced them, during events in 1999, to wallow in human excrement and several inches of toilet water for a period of several weeks. The outcome of that lawsuit, filed by Boston attorney Phillip Kassel, is not known.

Bargoot was represented in the SBCC litigation by Massachussetts Correctional Legal Services attorney Bonnie Tenneriello. See: Settlement Agreement, Bargoot v. Russo, USDC Civil Action 07-10505, 1/30/09; Ashman v. Marshall Complaint for Damages, 12/19/00. The documents are on PLN’s website.

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Related legal case

Bargoot v. Russo

Please see the brief bank for documents related to this case.