Judge dismisses inmate complaint of beating

June 30, 2005|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

A federal judge dismissed yesterday a complaint by a prison inmate who had claimed that he was harassed and beaten by correctional officers at the Eastern Correctional Institution.

The judge threw out the complaint at the request of inmate Kerry Woodard's lawyer. The lawyer, Joseph B. Tetrault, would not say yesterday why he filed a motion seeking voluntary dismissal of the complaint.

Woodard had claimed that he was beaten by officers at ECI because he had been a witness in the death of another prisoner and had talked to investigators about the actions of officers. But Woodard was not able to present any information in court to independently corroborate his claims that he had been physically abused, and officials at ECI denied the allegations.

Woodard said he was a witness to events that led to the death of Ifeanyi A. Iko, 51, an inmate at the Western Correctional Institution near Cumberland. Iko died of asphyxiation after he was forcibly removed from a cell at the prison in April 2004.

At a hearing this month, U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett indicated that he was skeptical of Woodard's claims and denied the inmate's request for an injunction. Woodard had asked to be relocated from the state correctional system to a federal prison.

Woodard, who is serving a 12-year sentence for first-degree assault, was transferred shortly after the hearing from ECI to the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, records show. David Hamilton, a lawyer for the prison system, said it "seemed prudent" to move Woodward "to minimize the possibility of further unfounded allegations." He said the transfer should not be taken as an indication there was any merit to his claims.

Woodard had testified that three officers came into his cell one morning in mid-April, threw a blanket over his head, called him a "snitch" and kicked him several times in the legs and side.

Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said officials were pleased that the case had been dismissed.

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