N.Y. state sued over inmate's death, allegedly beaten by guards

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 09, 2015 10:40 AM

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The wife of a New York state prison inmate who died after a confrontation with guards in April filed a civil rights lawsuit against the state on Wednesday amid continuing investigations by authorities into his death.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in White Plains, New York, said Samuel Harrell, 30, died after being handcuffed, punched, kicked and stomped by guards at the Fishkill Correctional Facility, including officers belonging to a group that inmates called the "Beat Up Squad."

The lawsuit said the April 21 confrontation took place after Harrell, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, announced he was going home despite having years left on his sentence for a drug conviction.

Harrell was pronounced dead at a local hospital. The county medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, brought by Diane Harrell, his wife, said the actions "embody the very antithesis of civil rights."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from New York state, prison officials and the union that represents guards at the facility.

The lawsuit came nearly two weeks after U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said on Aug. 27 that federal prosecutors and the local district attorney in Dutchess County, New York, were investigating Harrell's death.

Bharara's announcement came after a protest that same day in Poughkeepsie, New York, over Harrell's death, which has gained widespread media attention in New York.

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The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision declined comment, citing "on-going state and federal investigations."

The union, the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, stressed that no officers had been placed on leave nor suspended to date even amid the investigations.

"We will continue to review all the facts before rushing to judgment," James Miller, a spokesman for the union, said in a statement.

A spokesman for the state attorney general, whose office defends the state in litigation, declined comment.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Alan Crosby)