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$2 Million Award to New Hampshire Guards Falsely Accused of Beating Prisoner

On May 19, 2008, a New Hampshire jury awarded nearly $2 million to two prison guards who were fired when other guards lied about their involvement in an assault on a prisoner.

After guards Shawn Stone and Todd Conner accused co-workers Timothy Hallam and Joseph Laramie of assaulting prisoner Michael Kelly in 2005 and failing to report the incident, Hallam and Laramie were fired. However, a 2006 hearing by the New Hampshire Personnel Appeals Board found the prison’s investigation was contradictory and questionable. The Board found no wrongdoing on the part of Hallam and Laramie, and ordered them reinstated.

The pair then sued the New Hampshire Department of Corrections (NHDOC), Warden Bruce Cattell, and Stone and Conner. The court dismissed NHDOC and Cattell, and the matter proceeded to trial against Stone and Conner.

It turned out that Kelly had accused Stone and Conner of punching him while he was handcuffed. “The inmate had actually accused both of the defendants of assaulting him, and their claim was in turn for self-preservation,” said Kevin Leonard, the attorney who represented Hallam and Laramie.

The jury’s verdict found that Stone and Conner had “intentionally and improperly interfered” with Hallam and Laramie’s employment. The jury awarded Hallam $1.3 million in compensatory damages while Laramie was awarded $650,000. The disparity was due to Hallam being “medically unable” to return to work, while Laramie was reemployed as a prison guard. Both Stone and Conner still work for the NHDOC.

“First, they prevail at the Personnel Appeals Board and now to have a jury of 14 Merrimack County residents agree with them – they’re both ecstatic,” said Leonard. New Hampshire taxpayers are the real losers, as the verdict will be paid with state funds.

In October 2008, the Superior Court denied the state’s motion for a new trial or for a reduction in the damage award. Leonard said the state owed his clients an additional $230,000 in interest as a result of the delay caused by the motion. See: Laramie v. Cattell, Merrimack Co. Superior Court (NH), Case No. 06-C-224; Hallem v. Cattell, Merrimack Co. Superior Court (NH), Case No. 06-C-225.

On November 21, 2008, the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed to hear the state’s appeal in this case. A ruling has not yet been issued.

Sources:, Associated Press 

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Related legal cases

Laramie v. Cattell

Hallem v. Cattell