by Keith Sanders
On January 31, 2023, a group of 26 prisoners housed in New York’s notorious Sing Sing maximum-security prison brought suit against the state for an assault on them by guards during a two-day prison-wide search in November 2022. The suit, filed for the prisoners in state Court of Claims by attorney Alexander Klein of Barket Epstein Kearon Aldea and LoTurco LLP, accuses guards and supervisors of battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and failure to intervene, and it accuses the state of negligent hiring, training, discipline and retention of guards at the 198-year-old prison. Klein is seeking $500,000 in compensatory damages and another $500,000 in punitive damages for each prisoner claimant.
The incident unfolded on November 9, 2022, when Sing Sing and its 1,400 prisoners saw the arrival of a special Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT) from the state Department of Corrections and Community Services (DOCCS) to conduct a two-day facility search. DOCCS maintains 21 CERT teams, which are notorious for violent tactics and disregard for policies and procedures under the guise of “security” to conduct their searches. When their operation began at Sing Sing, they were decked out in full “black tactical gear with visors,” according to affidavits.
One of the prisoner claimants, Anthony McNaughty, described what happened next. After dragging his mattress out of his cell so that it could be searched for contraband, he was sent back inside and 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,” he said, but a CERT squad and other guards entered his cell and “immediately placed him in a chokehold.” He was then subjected to a savage beating as guards threw McNaughty to his bunk and kneed him in the back. At one-point McNaughty alleges he couldn’t breathe because of the tremendous “pressure on his neck.”
The brutal assaults left at least seven prisoners in the hospital with another 20, including McNaughty, transferred to a medical unit for their injuries.
“This was nothing short of a planned attack on incarcerated men by correction officers,” declared attorney Bruce Barket, whose firm is representing the prisoners. 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.” See: Bowden v. N.Y., N.Y. Ct. of Claims, Claim No. 138757.
Barket also indicated that the FBI was conducting an investigation into the incident with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
Additional source: New York Times
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