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Arkansas Federal Jury Awards $261,000 to Male Prisoner Raped by Male Guard

On July 16, 2009, a federal jury awarded $261,000 to a former Arkansas prisoner who was sodomized and forced to perform oral sex on a guard.

While incarcerated at the Varner Supermax Unit, Jason D. Palton was terrorized by Arkansas Dept. of Correction guard Antonio Remley. On four occasions in 2005, Remley forced Palton to perform oral sex on him. He also sodomized Palton.

During three of the encounters Remley was careful to clean up any evidence of what had occurred, often forcing Pal-ton to brush his teeth. Remley was distracted during the last encounter, though, and Palton was able to save some of Remley’s semen in a potato chip bag that he passed to other prisoners for safekeeping. The semen was later turned over to authorities and identified as Remley’s.

Remley confessed after investigators told him that Palton had saved a sample of his semen. He resigned, was crimi-nally charged, pleaded guilty to three counts of third-degree sexual assault in 2007, and was sentenced to five years in prison. He is now out on parole.

Represented by Little Rock attorney Patrick James, Palton sued Remley, Assistant Warden Thomas Hurst and sev-eral other Varner Supermax staff alleging deliberate indifference. For example, according to Palton, Hurst saw Remley assaulting him but did nothing in response.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of Palton on his claims against Hurst and Remley but found no wrongdoing by the other defendants. The jurors awarded Palton $10,000 in compensatory damages, $250,000 in punitive damages against Remley and $1,000 in punitive damages against Hurst. Remley did not appear at the trial or defend himself against Pal-ton’s claims.

James said that he and his client wished there were “more compensatory damages,” but were “gratified that the jury found that [Palton] was raped while in prison, and that prison management was deliberately indifferent and allowed it to occur.”

Dina Tyler, a spokesperson for Varner Supermax, said “We felt all along that Remley had done things wrong, but that the agency as a whole did not.” Commenting on the jury’s verdict against Hurst, Tyler stated “We don’t feel that the assis-tant warden did anything with the intention to allow this to take place.”

Palton said he felt vindicated by the jury award. No amount of money, however, can compensate for the sexual abuse he suffered while in the custody of Arkansas prison officials. According to court documents, the judgment against Hurst was satisfied in November 2009. See: Palton v. Jackson, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Ark.), Case No. 5:06-cv-00198-SWW.

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Related legal case

Palton v. Jackson