258 F.Supp. 372 (E.D.Va. 1966), Civ. A. 3703, Johnson v. United States Government

Docket NºCiv. A. 3703
Citation258 F.Supp. 372
Party NameJohnson v. United States Government
Case DateSeptember 09, 1966
CourtUnited States District Courts, 4th Circuit, Eastern District of Virginia

Page 372

258 F.Supp. 372 (E.D.Va. 1966)

John R. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,

v.

UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT, Defendant.

Civ. A. No. 3703-M.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia

Sept. 9, 1966

Page 373

John R. Johnson, pro se.

John D. Schmidtlein, Asst. U.S. Atty., Alexandria, Va., for defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

OREN R. LEWIS, District Judge.

This is a suit brought by the plaintiff against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act, seeking damages for injuries sustained from a stabbing and a subsequent beating inflicted by two different inmates while confined in the United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

The plaintiff is now in the Lorton Reformatory, Lorton, Virginia. He was transferred there subsequent to the alleged assaults.

The plaintiff prepared the complaint and originally filed it in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Leave was there granted to proceed in forma pauperis.

Upon hearing, that court transferred the case to this court. 1

Motion was here made for the appointment of counsel. The motion was denied, the Court being of the opinion that it should neither ask nor require attorneys 2 to represent indigent plaintiffs in such cases, either on a fee or contingent basis.

The Court did attempt to procure counsel for the plaintiff through the Legal

Page 374

Aid Society of the District of Columbia and of Alexandria, Virginia, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Health, Education and Welfare Department of the Government, Georgetown University Law School and other sources, all without success.

All documents and witnesses requested by the plaintiff, including prison inmates and officials, were subpoenaed at government expense. The plaintiff was given every opportunity to present his side of the case and was given such assistance by the Court as was reasonable and proper in his cross examination of government witnesses.

The material facts are not in dispute. The Government admits both the stabbing and the subsequent beating in the hospital section of the prison. The plaintiff admits that his allegation that the officials of Lewisburg had been warned by letter that he would be killed if not taken out of the general prison population was based solely on hearsay. (The prison officials denied receiving such a letter or having any knowledge of the alleged threat.)

The prison records that were introduced in evidence disclose that Johnson at the time of the initial stabbing (March 2, 1963) was a twenty-one year old, single, Negro, from Washington, D.C., then serving a three to ten-year sentence in the Lewisburg Penitentiary for robbery. His delinquency history extends back to around the age of ten. He has been in almost continuous confinement since that time. He started at the Industrial Home School in Washington, and in 1954 he was committed to the National Training School. In 1957 he was transferred to Petersburg after a sexual assault on another inmate at that school. While still in the A/O unit at Petersburg, he banded together with other aggressive District of Columbia Negroes and attempted to force white inmates into homosexual acts. He was immediately transferred to Danbury where the same type of behavior continued. In October 1958 he was in segregation for fighting with another inmate after approaching him for homosexual purposes. On April 7, 1959 he was involved with a gang who assaulted white inmates. A month later he ran out of his cell and attempted to assault a lieutenant. He was held in administrative segregation from April until December because of fear of retaliation against him by Puerto Rican inmates in the population.

On December 7, 1959 Johnson was sent back to the Training School. Reports from the Training School revealed he maintained a good adjustment until his sentence was vacated by the court on August 1, 1960. Two months later he committed the offense for which he is now serving...

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