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Federal jury awards $700K to man in prison assault civil case

A federal jury awarded $700,000 Monday to a man assaulted by prison guards in 2013, finding the three guards as well as two supervisors liable for the attack.

Kevin Younger was assaulted by several officers at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center (MRDCC) in Baltimore the day after he witnessed other inmates assaulting an officer. Because he had been present, Younger was segregated, as were those implicated in the attack. Believing Younger had been involved, Sgt. Kwasi Ramsey, Sgt. Jemiah Green and Officer Richard Hanna attacked him.

A jury trial began Jan. 21 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Attorneys delivered closing arguments Monday and jurors began deliberating at around 4 p.m. Jurors deliberated for about two hours before returning the verdict Monday evening.

Attorney Allen Honick told jurors in his closing that “a culture of corruption” and “systemic failures” prevailed at MRDCC and could not have developed without “complicity from the top down.”

Younger is also represented by David Daneman.

Younger alleges that the acting warden of the facility, Tyrone Crowder, was on notice that Ramsey, Green and Hanna had disciplinary issues and that retaliation against inmates was a possibility if a guard was injured.

“It doesn’t have to be, ‘Go get him, boys,'” Honick said. “It can be burying your head in the sand, too.”

Honick, of Whiteford Taylor Preston LLP in Baltimore, pointed to reports and testimony that showed troublesome behavior by the officers was flagged but that no serious corrective action was taken by Crowder.

But Robert A. Scott, an attorney for Crowder, told jurors Monday that they had to consider the facts known to Crowder at the time of the incident, not what is known now with the benefit of hindsight.

To hold a supervisor accountable, Younger must prove the supervisor knew subordinates engaged in conduct carrying a serious risk of constitutional injury, responded so inadequately as to demonstrate deliberate indifference or tacit authorization, and caused harm by not responding, Honick and Scott both told the jury.

Scott said that Crowder was not properly informed of the severity of the attack on the guard, hearing the guard had received a bump on the head and a cut lip, and that nothing alerted Crowder to any specific need to take steps beyond the standard segregation of the inmates involved.

Scott said that assault complaints filed against the three officers before the attack on Younger had either been closed or were later resolved with no finding of criminal wrongdoing. Crowder also called internal investigators to report the assault on Younger and the other inmates and interviewed the victims afterward, Scott said.

“It’s very easy to second guess after the fact,” Scott said.

Lt. Neil Dupree is also accused of sanctioning and encouraging a violent culture at the facility and knowing about a pattern of retribution but not taking steps to protect Younger and others implicated in the attack on the guard.

Crowder, Dupree and the three correctional officers are joint defendants in the case.

Younger sued the state, warden and correctional officers in U.S. District Court in September 2016, but the state — including the former secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services — were dismissed from the suit because they had to be sued in state court. A Baltimore City Circuit Court jury awarded Younger $2.7 million — later reduced to $200,000 under a damages cap — in his case against the state in June 2019. The federal case against the individual defendants then resumed.

The case is Kevin Younger v. Jemiah L. Green, 1:16-cv-03269.

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