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$105,000 Settlement in Wisconsin Prisoner’s Excessive Force Claim

Barnett’s civil rights action stemmed from events that occurred at Columbia Correctional Institution. While locked in his cell on October 25, 2018, Barnett spit water on guard Russell Goldsmith through the trap box of his cell. Goldsmith responded with a threat, stating Barnett was a “dead man” and that he was going to take his head off.

The next day, Barnett spit water through the trap box on guard Tara Woodruff. Shortly thereafter, she returned with Goldsmith and they placed a sheet over Barnett’s trap box. Goldsmith told Barnett before leaving the area that it was “going to be rough night” for him.

A short while later, Goldsmith returned with guard Michael Thompson. Woodruff opened Barnett’s cell and Goldsmith entered with a shield and knocked Barnett to the floor. Barnett curled into a fetal position and laid there defenseless as Goldsmith repeatedly punched him in the face, gouged his eyes, caused him to choke, and bent his fingers back. Thompson participated with repeated knees strikes to Barnett’s rib area. Three other guards entered the cell but took no action to intervene.

Goldsmith dragged Barnett down the hall in a chokehold and had him placed in a restraint chair. Barnett alleged he suffered excruciating pain and was treated for injuries to his eyes, ribs, back, thumb, and ring finger. Goldsmith and Thompson wrote reports stating they entered Barnett’s cell because he had tied a sheet around his neck and they were trying to save his life. The reports stated Barnett took a ‘‘boxer stance’’ when they entered the cell. These lies were exposed via the guards’ body cameras.

Goldsmith and Thompson were criminally charged on November 13, 2018. Barnett pleaded no contest to battery and false swearing. He was sentenced to 18 months’ probation. Thompson was sentenced to one year of probation after pleading no contest to disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer.

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Related legal case

Barnett v. Goldsmith