by David M. Reutter
On March 30, 2023, a jury sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois awarded $50,002 in damages to state prisoner Larry ‘Rocky’ Harris on his claim that prison officials punished and transferred him to a less desirable lockup because of what his daughter posted on her Facebook account.
Harris, now 64, filed his pro se federal civil rights complaint on March 27, 2017, accusing Warden Victor Calloway at Danville Correctional Center (DCC) of throwing the prisoner in segregation in retaliation for Facebook posts made by Amanda Carrasco, Harris’ daughter. In those posts she claimed that a DCC guard was stealing from prisoners’ canteen orders, purposely overcharging them and stealing taxpayer’s money.
As the prisoner’s complaint later recalled, guard Lt. Charles Campbell wrote a disciplinary report after the posts were discovered, charging Harris with engaging in “Threats and Intimidation.” The guard supported that charge by stating the Facebook posts created a “Hostile Work Environment.” The DCC Adjustment Committee agreed and found Harris guilty. Among other sanctions, it ordered a disciplinary transfer to Big Muddy River Correctional Center.
On September 30, 2019, the district court took up the case, first agreeing with Defendants that Harris was in fact able to exert some control over Corrasco’s Facebook account, since she redacted the guard’s name from her post after speaking with her dad. But Harris could not act as an attorney to protect Corrasco’s free-speech rights, the Court said, nor was he attempting to protect his own; rather his claim was for retaliation, for which the Court granted Harris summary judgment and ordered a damages trial.
When that trial was finally held, the jury awarded Harris $1.00 in nominal damages, plus punitive damages of $50,000 against Calloway and $1 against Campbell. Harris by then was represented by attorneys with Myer & Kiss LLC in Peoria. See: Harris v. Calloway, USDC (C.D. Ill.), Case No. 2:17-cv-02075.
In a letter to PLN, Harris said the Court issued its decision to “send a message” to wardens throughout the state Department of Corrections: “This practice [which was] used to silence the prisoner [will] no longer be tolerated.”
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