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Montana Parolee Sues CoreCivic Over Prison Assault, Brain Injury

by Matt Clarke

former prisoner at the Crossroads Correctional Center near Shelby, Montana is suing the facility’s private operator, CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) and its contract medical provider, alleging staff allowed another prisoner to assault him without intervening and then delayed medical care, resulting in a permanent brain injury. 

Ray Carpenter was 49 years old and serving an eight-year sentence for witness tampering when he was beaten inside his cell at Crossroads on June 2, 2016. According to Carpenter, fellow prisoner Robert Todd Kesley hit him from behind with a lock inside a sock, then threw him to the ground and kicked him repeatedly in the head for five minutes, at one point leaving the cell before returning. After the assault, Carpenter’s cellmate helped him onto his bunk where he “passed out.” He awoke around 2:30 a.m. and vomited several times, so he reported to the prison’s medical unit where his head wound was cleaned and examined. 

A few hours later, a different nurse saw Carpenter and determined that he had a severe concussion and brain bleed. She told nurse practitioner Peter Molnar that Carpenter, who was still vomiting intermittently, needed to be transported to the hospital, but Molnar decided to sew the head wound closed instead. 

During the ensuing five days, Carpenter’s head swelled and he went in and out of consciousness. His condition deteriorated to the point that he was sent to a hospital where an emergency CT scan revealed a large hematoma on his brain. During emergency surgery to remove the hematoma, a doctor found a blood vessel that was still bleeding. 

Carpenter was subsequently paroled in March 2018 but continues to suffer from post-concussive epilepsy, a speech delay, headaches, dizziness and other problems. He filed a lawsuit against CoreCivic, the prison’s medical contractor (Correctional Medical Associates, Inc.), Molnar and other staff members, and Kelsey. Kelsey was charged with assault with a weapon and criminal endangerment for attacking Carpenter. 

The lawsuit was removed to federal court on March 8, 2019.

Pleadings filed by Carpenter’s attorneys, Timothy Bechtold and Jacquelyn Hughes, allege prison officials knew he was at “substantial risk” of being assaulted because he had initiated an investigation into a sexual relationship between a staff member and another prisoner. Carpenter is also challenging the state’s $1.5 million cap on damages when suing a public agency. The case remains pending. See: Carpenter v. CCA of Tennessee, LLC, U.S.D.C. (D. Mont.), Case No. 4:19-cv-00016-BMM. 

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Sources: billingsgazette.com, greatfallstribune.com

Related legal case

Carpenter v. CCA of Tennessee, LLC