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$200,000 Settlement in Pennsylvania County Prison Unsafe Conditions Case

On August 17, 2012, a federal lawsuit over a guard allowing prisoners to be beaten by other prisoners at a county prison and officials generally allowing unsafe and violent conditions at the prison was settled for $200,000.

John Julius Mucha was a prisoner at the Northampton County Prison in Easton, Pennsylvania and only a few days from release from his 90-day sentence for when, on January 29, 2009, three prisoners entered his cell and severely beat him and his three cellmates. Mucha suffered permanent head, back and sciatic nerve injuries due to the beating.

Mucha filed a civil rights suit in federal court pursuant to 42 U.S. § 1983, alleging that guard James Boehm was running a gang of prisoners who were allowed to extort other prisoners and that he had assisted in the beating by electronically opening Mucha's cell door to let his assailants into the cell, failed to intervene in the beating, failed to summon medical aide after the beating and helped cover up evidence of the beating. The suit also allege that various prison, law enforcement and county officials permitted a violent and dangerous environment to exist in the prison and had failed to fire Boehm, who had previously been suspended for his involvement in illicit and organized tobacco distribution in the prison.

According to the lawsuit, the beating lasted for more than five minutes while Boehm watched from his post without intervening. Mucha was allegedly repeatedly slammed into his bunk and a steel ladder during the assault. He did not receive medical attention until after a new shift of guards came on duty.

Boehm allegedly came to the cell after the assault and demanded the return of bloody glasses belonging to one of the prisoners he had let into the cell. He threatened disciplinary action against the prisoners in the cell, interference with their parole and lengthening the sentences they had to serve should they refuse to turn over the glasses.

Despite the threats, Mucha reported the assault and Boehm's involvement in it to prison authorities and internal affairs officials. Mucha was released from the prison four days after the assault. This was one day past the end of his sentence.

The defendants agreed to pay Mucha and his attorneys, Nicholas R. Sabatine, III of Wind Gap and Brian M. Monahan of Eaton, $200,000 to settle the lawsuit with no admission of guilt. See: Mucha v. Boehm, U.S.D.C.-E.D.Penn., Case No. 5:11-cv-00624-TR.

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Related legal case

Mucha v. Boehm