Prisoner sues Northumberland County Prison for alleged beating
SUNBURY - A 20-year-old Shamokin man incarcerated at Northumberland County Prison is seeking more than $1 million in a lawsuit he filed earlier this week against prison personnel, claiming he was badly beaten, spit on and placed in solitary confinement that he described as the "cell from hell."
Jeffrey Robert Adams filed the suit Monday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Scranton, against Sgts. Krista Brouse and Joseph Moore, Correctional Officers Jason Greek, Josh Lehman and William Reber, Warden Roy Johnson, Operations Commander Brian Wheary and a nurse identified in court documents as "John Doe." Moore was terminated from his position Sept. 12, but it is unknown if his firing was related to allegations made in the suit.
Adams claims constitutional violations of cruel and unusual punishment, retaliation, failure to train officers, destruction of property and denial of his due process rights were committed, which violated his First, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.
He is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages against Brouse, Moore, Reber, Greek and Lehman for physical and emotional injuries sustained in the alleged beating, and against Johnson and Wheary for allegedly ordering the attack. He is seeking $300,000 in damages against Brouse for allegedly retaliating against him by destroying six photos, legal work, personal writings of business ideas, poems and a finished book, ordering him to live under gruesome conditions for two days in the "cell from hell" and issuing two false misconducts.
He also is seeking $175,000 in compensatory damages against an unidentified nurse for failing to provide adequate medical care and not taking photographs of injuries he allegedly suffered.
Punitive damages being sought by Adams include $200,000 each against Moore, Brouse, Reber, Greek and Lehman, $175,000 against the nurse, $150,000 against Johnson, and $125,000 against Wheary.
Efforts to reach the warden Wednesday were unsuccessful. Contacted Wednesday afternoon at the prison, Wheary referred any questions about the lawsuit to prison board solicitor John Muncer, who was unavailable for comment.
Commissioner Stephen Bridy, chairman of the prison board, stated, "The warden is still conducting an investigation, which is not yet complete because one of the guards named in the suit is on vacation, while another one was previously terminated. Until I get a full report from the warden, I really can't respond to anything else."
Bridy indicated that it may take four to five days for the warden to complete his probe.
In the suit, Adams claims he has been in prison since Jan. 11 on a probation and parole detainer and has been in solitary confinement since June 30 for what he described as "petty infractions" due to retaliation and inadequate disciplinary proceedings.
He's also incarcerated for receiving stolen property and discharging a firearm into an occupied structure relating to an arrest in Montour County.
Adams claims in the suit that Brouse came to the "right wing" in the prison Sept. 9 and accused the plaintiff and other inmates of throwing water. The suit states Brouse targeted Adams and inmate Eric Trometter by stating, "I know it was you two (expletive) dirt bags. Either stop it or I'll get Wheary to approve an --- whippin' for the both of ya."
Adams said he told Brouse he would file a grievance against her, and that Trometter said the same. According to the suit, Brouse replied, "Yeah, like anyone will give either of you a grievance."
Brouse returned a short time later with Moore, Lehman, Greek, Reber and Correctional Officer Joseph Kerstetter, the lawsuit says, and without warning, Greek opened Adams' cell door and punched him in the eye before several correctional officers began punching him repeatedly. Adams claims Lehman and Reber grabbed each of his arms so Greek could punch, elbow and knee him in the abdomen and groin.
Adams claims he fell to the floor and was kicked several times by Brouse and Reber.
He claims Brouse yelled at him, "How are you going to file a grievance now?" Adams said he apologized and asked the correctional officers to stop beating him. He said Brouse ordered the beating to stop and told the other guards to handcuff and shackle him.
'Slammed' in basement
Adams states in the suit that he was taken to the basement, where he was placed in a cell known as the "cell from hell" or "dungeon."
Adams claims Reber ordered him to get on his knees, but when he told the officer he couldn't, Adams says he was struck in the back of the head and slammed on the ground. Adams, who said he was lying on the floor in pain, claims one of the correctional officers spit on him before leaving and locking the cell.
Adams said he suffered a swollen lip, swollen knees, a swollen elbow, multiple bruises and had difficulty breathing as a result of the attacks. He also claimed his ribs were bruised and possibly fractured and was experiencing back pain, which made it difficult to sleep.
The plaintiff said he pleaded with the nurse to examine his injuries and take photographs of them, but the nurse denied him treatment, according to the suit.
The nurse told Adams he was only there to clean up any blood.
Adams said he was left in the cell without tissues, soap, toothpaste or clothing and that his toilet and sink didn't work.
He said his cell contained a strong odor of urine and was infested with insects and spiders.
Adams said he was forced to live under those conditions for two days without any food or water.
On Sept. 11, Adams said he was returned to his right wing cell.
Brouse told Adams and Trometter if they asked for any more grievances, they would receive another "--- whipping," according to the suit.
Adams said Brouse told him the items missing from his cell were turned over to Wheary.