Mont. Found Liable for Hog-Tying
HELENA, Mont. (AP) _ A federal jury Thursday awarded $1,006 each to five state inmates who were hogtied two weeks after a bloody 1991 prison riot.
The jury also found that Montana prison officials violated the rights of eight prisoners in body searches a week later. But the jury awarded them damages of only $73 for that claim.
Palmer Hoovestal, an inmate attorney, said the amount of damages was not important.
``What was important for us was that this was a constitutional claim and a finding that the Eighth Amendment had been violated,″ Hoovestal said, referring to the amendment that bans cruel and unusual punishment.
``The Eighth Amendment is still alive and well in the state of Montana,″ he said.
Five inmates were killed by fellow prisoners during the September 1991 riot at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge. Eighteen days later, five prisoners suspected of trying to incite a second riot were stripped naked, hogtied with handcuffs and chains and made to lie naked on bare concrete floors or on metal bunks without mattresses.
Inmates were left there for 24 hours; one inmate was restrained for about 43 hours.
All but one of the hogtied inmates also was subjected to rectal searches about a week later, during which they claimed spectators jeered and laughed.
Thirteen inmates sued, alleging eight prison officials violated their civil rights. The claims of four inmates were dismissed when they refused to discuss their actions during the riot.
A federal judge ruled last year that the hogtying was a violation of the Eighth Amendment. But the question of damages was left up to a jury, which also was asked to determine whether prison officials denied the inmates medical treatment and then tried to cover up the abuses.
Jurors rejected those claims, and found one of the eight officials not responsible for the abuse.
Warden Mike Mahoney, one of the defendants, stood by his actions.
``I’m proud of the way the situation was handled,″ said Mahoney, who was an associate warden at the time.