By Jeff Winter, CNN
(CNN) — Two men incarcerated in New York state prisons allege they were waterboarded and beaten by corrections officers during a days-long lockdown spurred by a prisoner-on-guard assault last October.
In separate civil lawsuits filed in December, Charles Wright, 44, and Eugene Taylor, 32, claim they were brutally beaten and pepper sprayed in their cells at Green Haven Correctional Facility in Stormville on October 7.
Both men were accused of having contraband, their respective filings state, and were transported to another facility later in the day, where they allege they were waterboarded.
“It’s pure unadulterated torture for no good reason,” said attorney Bruce Barket, whose firm is representing Wright and Taylor in their respective suits against the state. “This can’t be a technique that the Department of Corrections uses for its own private enforcement of discipline.”
His clients are seeking $20 million in damages over a series of claims including battery, the failure of prison employees to intervene on behalf of inmates in their custody and negligent hiring and training practices.
In his lawsuit, Wright claims he was cuffed and shackled before being transported by van to Great Meadow Correctional Facility – a maximum-security prison like Green Haven.
He said he was pepper sprayed again before he was taken to a room and shackled to a bed.
An officer described as a White man with a full beard, white eyebrow and a mohawk then put a dirty rag over Wright’s nose and mouth and poured water over it for roughly 45 seconds during which time an officer nearby failed to intervene, according to his suit.
Taylor’s lawsuit describes a similar chain of events and the same White officer with the “distinctive appearance” who he claimed wrapped a rag around his face and then repeatedly dunked his head in water.
The state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, which operates New York’s prisons, and the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents Great Meadow and Green Haven officers, both declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
Both Taylor and Wright faced disciplinary hearings after the alleged waterboarding incidents.
Wright was found guilty of multiple charges, including assaulting staff and possessing contraband – a charge the lawsuit says was false – and was ordered to serve six months in a segregated housing unit.
Taylor, the lawsuit states, was falsely accused of demonstration and gang activity. A disciplinary hearing in his case started but never concluded. Attorney Danielle Muscatello said his punishment has not been confirmed.
Taylor is serving a 23-years-to-life sentence for second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon, and Wright is serving an 18-years-to-life sentence for second-degree murder and grand larceny, according to prison records.
This is not the first time state corrections officers have been accused of waterboarding prisoners.
Inmate Matthew Raymond alleged that corrections Lt. Troy Mitchell waterboarded and assaulted him in 2016 at the Auburn Correction Facility in Auburn, New York, according to a federal law suit filed in 2018. Raymond’s civil case against Mitchell is still ongoing. Mitchell has denied any wrongdoing, according to the New York Daily News.
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