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$55,000 Settlement in Suit over Beating/Restraint Chair Abuse at New Jersey Jail

In December 2014, Sussex County, New Jersey settled a lawsuit brought by a former jail prisoner who alleged he was brutally beaten, sprayed with chemicals and strapped into a restraint chair for 19 hours after he tried to talk to a prisoner who was being strapped into a restraint chair. Sussex County paid the prisoner $55,000 to dismiss the suit which alleged defendants "permitted a culture of religious discrimination and torture to flourish at the jail."

According to court documents, Robert A. Norman was a prisoner at the Keogh-Dwyer Correctional Facility awaiting transfer to a state prison to serve out a sentence for shoplifting and resisting arrest when he saw another prisoner being forcibly placed in a restraint chair. He tried to communicate with the prisoner, then returned to his cell. Later, seven guards entered his cell and "maced" him in the face before beating him savagely. He was thrown against the wall, thrown to the floor, punched and kicked in the face and torso before they handcuffed him behind his back and shackled his legs.

The guards then allegedly forced Norman into a nearby shower room where they ran cold water on him and beat him some more. During the beatings, Norman was compliant and desperately pleading for the beating to stop. Other prisoners heard his pleas.

The guards took the wet, handcuffed and shackled Norman to the restraint chair, released the other prisoner and tightly strapped Norman in, leaving him there for 19 hours still handcuffed and shackled. Norman experienced excruciating pain from the injuries, chemicals and positional restraint. He was not given a bathroom break and urinated on himself.

Norman filed a civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal court. He alleged permanent injury caused by cruel and unusual punishment. The case was dismissed and Norman refiled the suit in Superior Court in Sussex County; it was then transferred to Superior Court in Morris County before being settled for $55,000.

"People don’t have a chance to know what goes on [in the jail]," said Sparta attorney Jeffery Patti, who represented Norman. "A light needed to be shone on what was going on in there." See: Norman v. Untig, U.S.D.C.-D. N.J., Case No. 2:11-cv-00700-SDW-MCA.

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Related legal case

Norman v. Untig