State Paying Former Inmate $500,000 To Settle Suit

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by Rachana Rathi
The Hartford Courant

October 11, 2007

The state is paying a former inmate $500,000 to settle his federal lawsuit alleging that state correction officers severely beat him in 2004 for complaining to a ranking prison official about excessive force by guards against other inmates.

Robert Joslyn, 32, formerly of Lebanon, was serving an 11-1/2-year sentence for burglary in March 9, 2004, when the incident occurred in his cell in Northern Correctional Institution in Somers.

In his lawsuit, Joslyn claimed guards began the attack with mace and a guard dog, then burst into his cell and beat him after telling him he was in trouble for complaining about guards' assaults on other prisoners.

Joslyn was released from state custody in August, the same month the state agreed to settle the case instead of going to trial, his attorney, Antonio Ponvert III of Bridgeport, said Wednesday.

Joslyn, who still lives in the state, could not be reached for comment.

"I hope that the guards at the department of correction hear the message loud and clear that you cannot assault defenseless inmates for pleasure," Ponvert said. "More importantly, I hope the department of correction understands you can't just slap the guards on the wrist. There needs to be meaningful discipline."

The disposition that awarded $500,000 cash to Joslyn also includes an agreement by both parties to waive a $500,000 lien the state filed seeking reimbursement of what it claimed was the expense of Joslyn's incarceration.

The lawsuit, filed in February in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, was against Department of Correction Deputy Commissioner Brian Murphy, Capt. Matthew Regan and 14 prison guards.

Correction officer Patrick Maia was fired after an internal report concluded he used excessive force in the incident, but he was reinstated a year later as a result of a grievance settlement.

"A small number of our 7,000 professional men and women were found to have violated our policies in this incident, which we do not tolerate," Department of Correction spokesman Brian Garnett said Wednesday. "And appropriate discipline was imposed as a result. The settlement speaks for itself."

Joslyn alleged in the lawsuit that he was beaten March 9, 2004, after DOC officials said he broke a sprinkler head and flooded his cell at Northern.

In his lawsuit, Joslyn claimed he was beaten the day after he told the deputy commissioner in a written complaint that guards would routinely announce a false "code blue" to suggest that inmates were fighting and needed to be separated. The lawsuit alleged that guards began to threaten Joslyn repeatedly after he lodged the complaint.

Joslyn was brought to the emergency room at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington for treatment after the incident inside his cell.

DOC security monitors at Northern videotaped much of that incident and the footage was used by state DOC investigators during their probe of the beating.

In the department's internal report, investigators noted Joslyn sustained head trauma from multiple blows, had several lumps on his head and three or four lacerations around the bridge of his nose.

Joslyn was sent to prison in 1992 for burglary and amassed 92 inmate disciplinary reports on his record, the correction department report says.

Ponvert said Joslyn is "employed and getting his life together."