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$26,500 in Settlements in Former California Prisoner’s Retaliation Lawsuits

by David M. Reutter

As of March 2023, a long-term California prisoner now paroled had received settlements totaling $26,500 in two lawsuits that alleged his First Amendment rights were violated when prison officials took retaliatory actions because of grievances and litigation he filed.

The most recent victory for Jared M. Villery, 39, came on March 15, 2023, when the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) agreed to pay $6,500 to settle the pro se civil rights complaint he filed on August 18, 2015, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. In that suit, he alleged that staff at California Correctional Institution (CCI) subjected him to “repeated, blatant acts of retaliation” after he filed grievances against seven guards on July 27, 2014.

Villery alleged that within days of his first grievance he was falsely charged with possession of dangerous contraband found during “a retaliatory cell search” that left his cell “in shambles.” Guard William Gibbons wrote in a disciplinary report on August 19, 2014, that he found a loose razor blade in Villery’s locker. Then on September 10, 2014, Sgt. Travis Alatorre filed a disciplinary report charging Villery with disobeying an order. Villery denied both charges but alleged that during disciplinary hearings he was denied due process. He also claimed he was threatened with placement in the administrative segregation unit for pursuing the grievances. The settlement provided for dismissal of the action. See: Villery v. Sanders, USDC (E.D. Cal.), Case No. 1:18-cv-01067

Villery earlier obtained a $20,000 settlement on April 28, 2017, in another lawsuit that alleged retaliation. According to that pro se civil rights complaint filed in the same court on August 18, 2015, staff at CCI began to harass and threaten Villery when he attempted to seek mental health treatment on January 15, 2014. That led Villery to file grievances against CCI’s guard Captain and other staff members.

The first grievance resulted in guards calling Villery a “snitch” and “other derogatory terms associated with his exercise of his rights as a jailhouse lawyer,” the complaint alleged. Their retaliation over an eight-month period left Villery unable to complete his work duties, as guards falsified pay documentation. Yet Villery continued to act as a “punk jailhouse lawyer,” according to guards, who threatened him and prohibited him from participating in a visit on grounds he was working, despite prison rules prioritizing visits.

Villery alleged he was subjected to fabricated disciplinary reports, endured an undeserved housing unit change and threatened with pepper spray. The case was dismissed following the settlement. See: Villery v. Garcia, USDC, (E.D. Cal.), Case No. 1:15-cv-00936.

PLN earlier reported Villery’s victory at the state Court of Appeals in a mandamus action to compel CDCR to stop stonewalling his grievances. [See: PLN, Aug. 2017, p.30.]

Villery was admitted to CDCR in July 2005, following his conviction for a home invasion and robbery at a duplex shared by 10 college students. When defense attorneys argued Villery and his accused accomplice couldn’t have controlled such a large group, prosecutors responded with diagrams of planes hijacked and crashed by Saudi terrorists in the attacks on September 11, 2001. An appellate court later called that a “foul blow” but upheld the convictions. See: People v. Zurinaga, 148 Cal. App. 4th 1248 (2007).

Villery has now been paroled to a re-entry program in Los Angeles. In a letter to PLN on July 20, 2023, the self-described “avid litigator” said he plans to attend law school and become an attorney. His perseverance in the face of such persistent retaliation is to be commended.  

Additional source: Wired Magazine

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