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Articles by Joe Watson

Wiccan Prisoner Settles with NV DOC Over Denial of Hardbound Religious Books

by Joe Watson

Donald Towne, a Nevada state prisoner and practicing Wiccan, reached a settlement of unspecified remedies in July 2008 in his pro se lawsuit against the state’s Department of Corrections (NDOC).

Towne alleged that his constitutional rights were violated during his incarceration at Lovelock Correctional Center by Warden William Donat, NDOC Director Howard Skulnick, and two other NDOC affiliates who Towne said denied him access to many Wiccan books because they were only in hardbound form. Per NDOC policy, only softbound books were allowed in the institution.

In August 2007, Towne sued Donat, Skulnick, et al., in a U.S. District Court presided over by Judge Edward C. Reed, Jr., alleging violations of his right to free speech, free exercise of religion, and due-process. Meanwhile, NDOC made several defenses including Towne’s failure to state a claim, statute of limitations, and failure to exhaust administrative remedies, before ultimately agreeing to settle with Towne. See: Towne v. Donat, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Nev.), Case No. 3:07-CV-00349.

Settlement for IN Man Deprived of Critical Meds While Incarcerated in County Jail

by Joe Watson

Gary L. Marshall, a former Hancock County, Ind. jail prisoner, settled for unspecified damages in June 2008 after he suffered multiple seizures while incarcerated, which he attributed to the jail’s alleged refusal to give him several psychotropic drugs he was prescribed for anxiety and insomnia.

Marshall was incarcerated on Sept. 13, 2004, and the next day Marshall’s son Jason brought his dad’s medications to the jail, but was told that he was only permitted medications for life-threatening issues or ailments. The jail allegedly refused to distribute any other type of drugs, including psychotropic or narcotic drugs. Over the next several days, Marshall began having health problems, including seizures so severe he was placed in a padded cell. Marshall was transported from the jail and hospitalized from Sept. 21 to Sept. 27. After he was returned to the jail, he was still allegedly denied his medications.

Two years later, Marshall filed suit against the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Nick Gulling, and jail guards Roger Sitton and Sally Aldridge in U.S. District Court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983, to redress violations of his Fourteenth Amendment rights, including depriving Marshall of ...

NV Prisoner with Hand Injury Settles for Used TV, Medical Evaluation and $40.70 in Copying Fees

by Joe Watson

Robert Finley, a Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) prisoner, settled in August 2008 for a used television, $40.70 in legal copying fees and a medical evaluation with follow-up treatment for the hand he injured when a prison guard allegedly slammed it in a cell door.

Finley ...

IN Woman Settles Wrongful Arrest Lawsuit

by Joe Watson

Anna Michelle Young, who was wrongfully arrested and incarcerated two days after Christmas in 2003 in Hancock County, Ind., agreed to settle her suit against Sheriff Nicholas Gulling, et al, in August 2008 for unspecified damages.

The Hancock Superior Court allegedly ordered the clerk of the court to mistakenly issue a warrant for Young’s arrest on Dec. 19, 2003, for failure to appear. The warrant was served eight days later by a sheriff’s deputy who arrested Young and processed her into the Hancock County jail.

Young allegedly explained to the deputy and other jail employees that her arrest was improper, but the jail took no action to verify Young’s claims. Once she was taken before Hancock County’s superior court, the court purportedly acknowledged that she had been mistakenly arrested and detained, and it ordered Young to be immediately released.

On Dec. 21, 2005, Michael J. Tosick, attorney for Young, filed suit against Gulling, as well as two jail employees. The case was removed to U.S. District Court, and Young sought relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 1983, 1988, including the recovery of her own costs and attorney’s fees, as ...

$7,500,000 Class-Action Settlement for Illegal Strip-Searches in Camden, NJ

by Joe Watson

A class-action, Fourth Amendment lawsuit originally filed by Laverne Hicks and Michael Velez, two New Jersey men who had each been stopped by state police for alleged traffic violations and subsequently strip-searched and jailed by Camden County, was settled in June 2008 for $7,500,000.

Charles ...

$750,000 Settlement for MI Man Wrongfully Jailed for Murder of Girlfriend's Infant Son

by Joe Watson

Matthew Ditzhazy, who was acquitted of charges that he murdered his girlfriend’s 19-month-old son, reached a $750,000 settlement agreement in July 2008 with the city of Lincoln Park, Mich., near Detroit, where he spent a year and a half in jail.

Three adults were in ...

$500,000 Settlement for Shackled IL Man Thrown from County Jail Transport Van

by Joe Watson

A man who was shackled, handcuffed, and in custody when he was thrown out of a moving, Jefferson County, Illinois transport van was awarded $500,000 in July 2008 after his estate settled in U.S. district court.

The estate of Torrie D. Daniels, represented by Office ...

$255,000 Jury Award for Man Beaten by IL Jail Guards After Judge Grants Remittitur

by Joe Watson

Donald Martin, Jr., had been awarded $780,000 in compensatory and punitive damages by a federal jury in July 2008 after he’d sued Cook County, Ill., Sheriff Michael Sheahan and the jail guards who had beaten him as a pre-trial detainee in 2006. But U.S ...

$187,000 Settlement for TX County Jail Administrator Turned Whistleblower

by Joe Watson

A former jail administrator in Bastrop County, Texas, agreed to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit for $187,000 against his old boss, a former sheriff who had pleaded guilty to charges of corruption and abuse of power. Charlie Littleton accepted the cash settlement—plus full retirement and ...

$175,000 Settlement for NY BOP Employee Allegedly Threatened, Sexually Harassed by Coworker

by Joe Watson

Etta Traynham, a recreational specialist at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, New York City’s Federal Bureau of Prisons facility, settled a Title VII lawsuit filed against the Department of Justice for $175,000 in May 2008.

Traynham alleged in a January 2007 complaint filed in the U ...


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