$177,500 Settlement in Lawsuit Over Five Louisiana Prisoners Pepper-Sprayed While Handcuffed
by Matt Clarke
Thanks to a public records request by The Associated Press, news broke in March 2020 that Louisiana-based private prison firm LaSalle Management Company had settled for $177,500 a lawsuit over a 2016 incident in which five prisoners were pepper-sprayed while handcuffed and kneeling.
Adley T. Campbell, Darin Washington, Sidney Stephens, Jareth Vinet, and Jimmy Klobas were incarcerated at the LaSalle-operated Richwood Correctional Center in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, when they were taken out of a dormitory, strip-searched and questioned whether their tattoos were gang-related. After they put their clothes back on, they were handcuffed and taken to a location known as the “White House,” where they were accused of being gang members, forced to kneel, and sprayed in the face with a chemical agent, which the documents called “mace” but was most likely pepper spray.
With the assistance of lawyers including Savannah, Georgia, attorney David J. Utter, the men filed a federal civil rights action in 2017, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against LaSalle, its insurers, and several of its former correctional employees, including Captain Roderick Douglas, 37, Sergeant Demario Shafer, 33, Lieutenant Christopher Loring, 35, and guards Quintal Credit, 26, and David Parker, 27. The lawsuit alleged violations of federal constitutional rights, Louisiana statutes, and state torts.
In April 2018, all five LaSalle employees were charged via federal indictments with conspiracy to assault the prisoners and filing false reports. During the course of 2018 and 2019, Douglas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the prisoners’ civil rights and the others pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cover up the assaults. They admitted filing false reports to cover up the reason the prisoners required medical treatment. The staff members received sentences of between 15 and 60 months.
In his statement regarding the assault, Douglas admitted deploying pepper spray directly into the eyes of two prisoners and then passing the can of pepper spray to other guards, though in his official report he wrote that he had sprayed just one of the prisoners when he “jerked away” and that the chemical stream then splashed the others.
According to the minutes of U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen L. Hayes dated March 12, 2020, there was no complete recording of the settlement conference due to technical problems. However, LaSalle agreed to pay $177,500 to settle the lawsuit and also agreed to the non-binding commitment to facilitate the transfer of one prisoner to a non-LaSalle prison and assist in reviewing the disciplinary record of another prisoner to ensure he had not lost good time credits due to the incident. The minutes noted that this was done.
“I told my son I’d give him 20 grand to not sign that … and let the truth come out,” said Larry Vinet, who believed each plaintiff would receive about $20,000.
In 2017, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that the state’s public records law applied to private entities performing public functions. Thanks to that ruling and the Associated Press’ public records request, Vinet can have his $20,000 from LaSalle and the truth can come out. See: Campbell v. LaSalle Management Co., LLC, Case No. 3:17-cv-01454, U.S.D.C. (W.D. La.).
Additional source: Associated Press, nytimes.com, wwltv.com
Related legal case
ampbell v. LaSalle Management Co., LLC
|Cite||Case No. 3:17-cv-01454, U.S.D.C. (W.D. La.)|