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Sing Sing Prisoners Sue, Alleging Vicious Beatings During CERT Shakedown

by Keith Sanders

On January 31, 2023, a group of 26 prisoners at New York’s notorious maximum-security Sing Sing Correctional Facility sued the state for assaults allegedly carried out by guards during a two-day prison-wide shakedown in November 2022.

The suit, filed in State Court of Claims by attorney Alexander Klein of Barket Epstein Kearon Aldea and LoTurco LLP in Garden City, accuses guards of battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and failure to intervene. It also accuses officials with the state Department of Corrections and Community Services (DOCCS) of negligent hiring, training, discipline and retention of guards at the 198-year-old prison. The suit seeks $1 million in damages for each prisoner plaintiff.

On November 9, 2022, a special Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT) began a two-day search of the lockup and its 1,400 prisoners. CERT guards are notorious for violent tactics, allegedly disregarding policies and procedures under the guise of “security” to conduct their searches. When the shakedown began at Sing Sing, they were decked out in full “black tactical gear with visors,” according to prisoner affidavits filed with the suit.

One plaintiff, Anthony McNaughty, described what happened next. He was told to “strip down to his boxers and slippers, place his hands above his head, and face the wall.” McNaughty complied without “any hesitation or resistance,” but a CERT squad and other guards entered his cell and “immediately placed him in a chokehold.” He was subjected to a savage beating before being thrown on his bunk and kneed in the back, he said. At one point McNaughty said he couldn’t breathe because of “pressure on his neck.”

The brutal shakedown put at least seven prisoners in the hospital. Another 20, including McNaughty, were transferred to a medical unit for treatment of their injuries.

“This was nothing short of a planned attack on incarcerated men by correction officers,” said Bruce Barker, another attorney at Klein’s firm. He added that the assault was “approved of and overseen by high-ranking officials in prison,” who “engaged in criminal conduct, and should be held accountable.” Barker said the FBI is investigating, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which could file civil rights charges in the case.

Source: New York Times

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