Court al­lows suit over jail as­sault to pro­ceed

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ariél Zangla azangla@free­manon­ ArielAtFree­man on Twit­ter

A state ap­pel­late court will al­low a law­suit stem­ming from an as­sault at the Ul­ster County Jail to pro­ceed.

A jury will de­cide whether em­ploy­ees at the Ul­ster County Jail could have rea­son­ably fore­seen that an in­mate with a prior history of violence while in­car­cer­ated would at­tack an­other in­mate, a state ap­pel­late court has ruled.

The Ap­pel­late Di­vi­sion of state Supreme Court, Third De­part­ment, ruled Wed­nes­day that it would be up to a jury in state Supreme Court in Ul­ster County to de­ter­mine whether em­ploy­ees at the jail failed to take ac­tion to ad­dress a rea­son­ably fore­see­able threat that re­sulted in the as­sault of Patrick J. Wass­man Jr. while he was an in­mate.

The de­ci­sion re­verses an ear­lier judgment in state Supreme Court that dis­missed the com­plaint against the de­fen­dants, in­clud­ing Ul­ster County.

At­tor­ney Kevin Bloom, who rep­re­sented Wass­man, said his client had been in­car­cer­ated at the Ul­ster County Jail on a mis­de­meanor charge stem­ming from the vi­o­la­tion of an or­der of pro­tec­tion. While Wass­man was be­ing held at the jail, Bloom said, he was as­saulted by an­other in­mate who had pre­vi­ously been in­volved in ag­gres­sive in­ci­dents while in­car­cer­ated at other cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties.

The as­sault at the Ul­ster County Jail oc­curred July 13, 2010.

On ap­peal, Wass­man ar­gued the de­fen­dants were neg­li­gent by not tak­ing into ac­count his as­sailant’s vi­o­lent con­duct while pre­vi­ously im­pris­oned and by not tak­ing steps to place that in­mate in “close cus­tody” at the jail, rather than in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the ap­pel­late court rul­ing, the de­fen­dants claimed they did not have ac­tual knowl­edge that the as­sailant had vi­o­lent propen­si­ties and the in­for­ma­tion they had re­gard­ing him gave them no rea­son to be­lieve he had a spe­cific prob­lem with Wass­man.

In re­sponse, Wass­man ar­gued the de­fen­dants failed to ob­tain records re­lated to his as­sailants prior time in state prison. Had that in­for­ma­tion had been ob­tained, the court ruled, the de­fen­dants would have known the as­sailant had en­gaged in vi­o­lent con­duct while im­pris­oned in 2003 and 2005.

Bloom said all jails in the state are re­quired to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion about an in­mate’s prior be­hav­ior if they have pre­vi­ously been in­car­cer­ated.

He said the jail scores its in­mates to de­ter­mine whether to house them in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion or in “close cus­tody,” and the in­for­ma­tion on Wass­man’s as­sailant would have scored him out of gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, pre­vent­ing the as­sault.

At­tor­ney Robert Cook of Kingston, who rep­re­sented the de­fen­dants, could not be reached for com­ment Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

Bloom said that as a result of the as­sault, Wass­man re­quired re­con­struc­tive surgery of his face, and now has a metal plate in his face.

Bloom added that Wass­man, who is now 25, is in­ca­pable of car­ing for him­self or work­ing as a result of the as­sault.

“He can do min­i­mal things, but he’s not go­ing to be able to find gain­ful employment,” Bloom said. He said a court in the state of Florida has ap­pointed Wass­man’s par­ents as his guardians.

Bloom said the law­suit in Supreme Court would seek dam­ages for Wass­man, but the amount of those dam­ages is cur­rently un­de­ter­mined.

At­tor­ney Robert Isseks, who also rep­re­sented Wass­man, said the fail­ure of the jail to fol­low state reg­u­la­tions in ob­tain­ing the as­sailant’s prior history is ev­i­dence of neg­li­gence that will be pre­sented at trial.

He said the jail does not reg­u­larly ob­tain records on in­mates un­less they are be­ing trans­ferred from an­other fa­cil­ity.


The en­trance to the Ul­ster County Jail in Kingston.

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