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Texas Prisoner Sues Former Guards for Planting Screwdrivers in His Cell

by Matt Clarke

In February 2019, Texas state prisoner Neil Giese filed a lawsuit against four former Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) guards – including a major, a lieutenant and a sergeant – who allegedly planted screwdrivers in his cell at the Ramsey Unit, southwest of Houston. 

As previously reported in PLN, the four former TDCJ employees, Major Juan Jackson, Lt. James Thomas, Sgt. Marcos Gallegos and guard George Wolfe, were indicted for felonies in connection with their actions involving Giese. Another TDCJ employee – Sgt. Darryll Winston – was fired for having knowledge of the misconduct and not reporting it. 

In another incident, which was unrelated but also involved Jackson, Ramsey Unit Building Captain Reginald Gilbert was demoted and transferred for setting up a system of disciplinary case quotas requiring guards to write two cases per day and even specifying what the violations should be. [See: PLN, Nov. 2018, p.34].

Giese’s problems at the Ramsey Unit began after he filed several grievances over inadequate medical care. He was repeatedly denied medical treatment, and guards who were friends of the medical staff named in his grievances allegedly began retaliating by issuing bogus disciplinary cases against him. In 2017, Giese’s mother, Sherry Templin, began contacting prison officials to complain about the retaliation against her son. She was “rebuffed” by officials who denied any retaliation. Then, in May 2018, Wolfe planted the screwdrivers. 

Although Giese’s cellmate, Jason Hamilton, witnessed Wolfe planting the tools and told prison administrators about it, Giese was charged with possession of weapons and placed in segregation. He likely would have been found guilty and severely disciplined had the scandal over Gilbert’s disciplinary quotas not been exposed. At that point, surveillance video evidence emerged supporting Hamilton’s account. Nonetheless, Giese, who is not a sex offender, was transferred to another facility, the Stringfellow Unit, where he was housed with sex offenders – which he viewed as additional retaliation.

“What’s the big deal?” asked Ramsey Unit Warden Virgil McMullen. “I dropped the case,” he said, referring to the contraband screwdrivers that had been planted. McMullen was later demoted and sent to work at another prison.

In December 2018, Gallegos pleaded guilty to felony tampering with evidence charges in a plea deal that netted him probation. The other three criminal cases remain pending. Aided by attorney John C. LaGrappe, Giese filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Jackson, Thomas, Gallegos and Wolfe on February 25, 2019. See: Giese v. Jackson, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Tex.), Case No. 3:19-cv-00081.

“To have law you have to have order,” said LaGrappe. “But if you’re going to have order, you have to have the people with authority and power do their job in an honest way and respect that authority and power.” 

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Source: chron.com

Related legal case

Giese v. Jackson