Inmates allege 'reign of terror'
File suit against Suffolk sheriff
By John Ellement, Globe Staff, 11/16/99
When Anthony Bova showed up in court in September, the judge was so horrified by the bruises he saw that he told a court officer to photograph Bova and ordered that he not be sent back to the Suffolk County House of Correction, where he had allegedly been beaten by correction officers.
Yesterday, Bova and 27 other inmates at the county prison filed a civil rights class-action lawsuit against Sheriff Richard J. Rouse, alleging they were victims of a "reign of terror" in which the were routinely subjected to racial epithets, beaten, denied medical care, and kept from their families.
The lawsuit follows allegations made in August that correction officers engaged in sexual misconduct with female prisoners.
Rouse has fired five male officers and the FBI is interviewing inmates and reviewing department records as part of an ongoing federal civil rights probe of the facility.
In the lawsuit filed yesterday, inmate Kenneth Montgomery claimed he was beaten by correction officers who placed a plastic bag over his head in an attempt to suffocate him. Montgomery needed stitches to his eyes after one beating, according to court papers.
Another inmate, Jerry Tolbert, claimed he's been in solitary confinement for two years, allowed out of his cell for just one hour a day while in restraints.
Tolbert says he has received sporadic medical care for glaucoma and a back injury and claims he was nearly blinded by correction officers who punched him in the face.
The lawsuit identifies 64 correction officers and their superiors and names Rouse and two of his top superintendents. There are approximately 500 correction officers, sergeants, and lieutenants, and 12 captains working at the prison. Gerard Lydon, a spokesman for Rouse, said yesterday that the sheriff had not yet seen the complaint but said Rouse will not ignore allegations of wrongdoing.
"We do take these matters seriously," Lydon said. "We are already cooperating fully with the FBI. ... Without having been served with a copy of the complaint, further comment would be inappropriate at this time." Bova's court appearance triggered the lawsuit, according to the Natick attorneys who filed it yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court.
Joseph M. Mahaney, who had represented Bova in the past, was in court on Sept. 25 when the judge noticed the bruises on his ears, Mahaney said.
Bova told Mahaney that he had been beaten by guards. That led to interviews with more inmates by Mahaney and his partners, Theodore H. Goguen and Sean T. Goguen, and the filing of yesterday's civil rights suit.
"Some of these guys have been in prison before," said Theodore Goguen. "Usually, you have to worry about the other prisoners, not the guards. But at this one, you have to worry about the guards."
Theodore Goguen said the number of inmates suing the department may eventually top 200. He said possible outcomes include payments to the inmates, court orders against individual guards banning further violence, and the appointment of a receiver to run the prison.
He stressed, however, that it was too soon to specify what remedies his clients would seek.
"It's not supposed to be a picnic, but jeez, you are not supposed to get this kind of treatment," Theodore Goguen said.
He described a "pervasive" atmosphere where correction officers were routinely allowed to beat inmates without fear of being punished by their superiors.
This story ran on page BOl of the Boston Globe on 11/16/99.
Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.
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