Judge lets ex-inmate’s prison riot lawsuit proceed

September 9, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A lawsuit filed by a former inmate who says he was traumatized by a deadly Nebraska prison riot will be allowed to proceed.

Judge John Colburn rejected a state bid to dismiss the lawsuit filed by John Wizinsky, according to Lancaster County District Court records. Colburn said in his ruling late last month that facts remaining in dispute should be resolved by trial. Court records don’t show a trial date has been set.

Wizinsky, who was serving time for drugs, theft and other crimes, is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit he filed less than three months after leaving prison in 2016. He alleges the state was negligent during the May 10, 2015, riot at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution. Inmates took control of a portion of the prison and killed two fellow prisoners.

Wizinsky had to stop three inmates from almost beating to death another prisoner, and he was left 18 hours without his diabetes medication and deprived of food necessary for his medical condition, the lawsuit says.

“As a result of the negligence of the state, (Wizinsky) suffered physical and severe mental distress that no person ought to have to endure,” the lawsuit says.

The state has acknowledged that Wizinsky was left without food and medication and said in its defense that it had no notice that a riot would occur. It offered testimony from a corrections consultant, Eugene Atherton, who’s been a warden in the Colorado prisons system. Atherton said the prison staffing was sufficient that day even though the prison population exceeded its designed capacity and that the state’s response to the riot was adequate.

The judge said in his ruling, however, that the state’s “duty of care also applies to how corrections staff responded to the riot after it started.”

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