In a lawsuit filed this week, an inmate at Clinton Correctional Facility claims he was beaten by guards, improperly held in his cell for 23 hours a day, and deprived of water and electricity after the escape of Richard Matt and David Sweat.
The suit, first reported by the Press-Republican, alleges that two guards entered the cell of Mattieu Burks, the plaintiff, and “slammed him around,” striking him in the face and body, about a month after Matt and Sweat’s escape in June 2015. Burks alleges that he was subsequently given a punishment known as “keep-lock,” meaning he was confined to his cell for 23 hours a day, and that he remained in keep-lock even after successfully appealing the punishment that landed him there. While there, he claims in the suit, “John Doe correction officials harassed him by shutting off the water and electricity in his cell,” and attempted to deprive him of food as well.
The suit names a group of correction officers at Clinton as defendants, including Chad Stickney, an officer nicknamed “Captain America” who has been the subject of multiple previous allegations of brutal abuse. It seeks a jury trial and unspecified monetary damages.
Burks worked in “Tailor Shop 1,” where Sweat and Matt also worked, and the suit insinuates that Clinton correction officers punished him because he was aware of the escaped inmates’ close relationships with prison workers such as Joyce Mitchell and Gene Palmer, both of whom were convicted in aiding their escape. “Correction officers were repeatedly threatening and harassing him, telling him to ‘hold it down’ and insisting that he knew nothing about correction officer complicity,” it reads. “Fearing for his safety, plaintiff refused to divulge information to investigators.”
Burks also alleges that he was abused before the escape. In particular, the suit focuses on an episode in which guards witnessed him socializing with a white female officer. Stickney allegedly then told Burks he was “just another nigger, we will kill you, do the paperwork and no one will care about another dead nigger.” Along with other officers, Stickney then “physically assaulted him by kicking him in the testicles and otherwise roughing him up,” according to the suit.
Aside from Burks’ allegations of abuse, the suit also provides a window into the environment at Clinton after the escape. As Gawker reported at the time, inmates were kept on lockdown in their cells and forbidden from watching the news or listening to the radio in the following days. According to the suit, one group first learned about the escape from a news chyron that ran below a televised broadcast of the French Open:
Update (4:40 p.m.): Leo Glickman, Burks’ attorney, offered the following comment: “We are bringing this lawsuit to shine a light on the utter brutality, criminality, and culture of cover up at the State Department of Corrections. Officers brutally assaulted my client because he knew too much about the involvement of correction officers in the Richard Matt and David Sweat escape. By intimidating and beating him, they thought they could keep their own misconduct in the dark.”
A New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision official said the DOCCS could not comment on pending litigation.