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Judge Awards $273,246 Payment to New York Prisoner Beaten by Guard

On January 16, 2020, a New York federal magistrate judge awarded $273,246.88 to a Sing Sing Correctional Facility prisoner who alleged a guard brutally beat him and lied about the incident.

The civil rights action was brought on May 3, 2017, by prisoner Morgan Greenburger. His complaint alleged that he was placed on “special watch” on May 11, 2016, after he told guards that he had eaten a toothbrush. Special watch requires guards to have constant supervision of prisoners to prevent them from injuring themselves.

Greenburger alleged that while under such supervision, he requested a urine bottle from guard Phillip R. Roundtree. Wait “a few minutes,” Roundtree told him. “Greenburg waited, again asked for the urine bottle, waited another fifteen minutes, and asked a third time, informing Roundtree that it was becoming an emergency,” according to court records.

Roundtree responded by screaming at Greenburger and threatening to beat him if he asked again. Greenburger said he was trying to avoid conflict but that he needed to use the bottle. After asking, “you sure you want it?” Roundtree opened the cell door and placed the urine bottle inside near the door.

“As Greenburger reached for the bottle, Roundtree beat Greenburger on the ‘head, back, shoulders, and left arm’ with enough force that the baton splintered.”

After a two-hour delay, Greenburger was taken to a hospital where he received five staples to close his head wound. Roundtree contended in a disciplinary action that Greenburger initiated the assault and refused a direct order. That resulted in Greenburger being placed in a Special Housing Unit for 50 days.

Greenburger received notice on October 2, 2016, that the disciplinary charges were reversed, and Roundtree was terminated as a result of his actions against him.

Greenburger filed his civil rights action on May 3, 2017, and the district court entered a default judgment on December 12, 2018, after Roundtree failed to respond to several orders from the court directing him to do so.

The matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave for an inquest into damages.

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Related legal case

Greenburger v. Roundtree