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FLEISHOUR v. UNITED STATES

August 26, 1965

CLINTON MARTIN FLEISHOUR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Will, District Judge.

This cause having come on for hearing before the Court on Count One, the issue of liability only, and the Court having examined the pleadings and the stipulation of facts submitted, having heard evidence and the statements of counsel, having examined the documents submitted as exhibits*fn1, and being fully advised, now enters the following findings of fact and conclusions of law and files its opinion.

Findings of Fact

1. This is an action for money damages for personal injuries which the plaintiff alleges arose out of an incident that occurred during the night of December 15-16, 1960, at McNeil Island, Washington, a federal penitentiary operated by the Bureau of Prisons, an agency of the United States.

2. On December 15-16, 1960, the plaintiff, then 21 years old, was a federal prisoner confined at McNeil Island Penitentiary. Troy Lee Stringfellow, then 19 years old, was similarly confined therein.

3. The plaintiff and Stringfellow were transferred to McNeil Island from the Federal Correctional Institution at Lompoc, California, an institution maintained for the incarceration of youthful offenders, on December 13, 1960. They were two of a group of over thirty inmates transferred from Lompoc to McNeil Island, a transfer prompted by a decision by Bureau of Prisons officials who had found the individuals in the group to be problem inmates unable to adjust to the less structured environment of the California facility.

4. Both the plaintiff and Stringfellow had prison records prior to commencing the terms they were serving at the time of the incident which gives rise to this action. The plaintiff was made a ward of the Juvenile Court of Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1955, when he was arrested for breaking and entering. He was in federal custody from 1957 to 1959 for violation of the Dyer Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2312, initially at the Federal Reformatory, El Reno, Oklahoma, then at the Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Island, California, and finally at Lompoc. He was conditionally released on December 4, 1959, and paroled in January, 1960. He was convicted on a second Dyer Act charge on March 21, 1960, and again sent to Lompoc.

5. Troy Lee Stringfellow's criminal record dates back to January, 1958, when he was arrested in California. He admitted several burglaries and attempted burglaries. The Juvenile Court placed him in a Boys' School, where he spent seven months before being paroled in July, 1958. He was arrested for violation of the Dyer Act on August 7, 1959, and, upon conviction, incarcerated at Lompoc.

6. While at Lompoc, Stringfellow received nine misconduct reports. On November 10, 1960, upon review by the Classification Committee at the prison (a body composed of Associate Wardens, the individual's caseworker, and the Chief of Classification at the Institution) the decision was made to recommend his transfer to McNeil Island. The Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C., concurred and on December 7, 1960, an order of transfer was sent to the Warden at Lompoc.

7. On December 13, 1960, the plaintiff, Stringfellow, and about 30 other prisoners were transferred from Lompoc to McNeil Island. All of them were assigned to the Admissions & Orientation Unit, where incoming prisoners are customarily housed until they are assigned to a specific program within the institution. All of the individuals in the group of transferees from Lompoc were interviewed individually by the Associate Wardens and Custodial Supervisors immediately upon arrival. Each prisoner's dossier went with him to McNeil Island and the records of all the prisoners were available to the Bureau of Prisons officials at the prison as soon as they arrived.

8. From the time the prisoners arrived at McNeil Island on December 13 until the night of the assault, December 15-16, they remained in the Admissions & Orientation Building. The area in which the inmates slept has a dormitory room with two rows of beds on the first floor. Each of the three floors above the dormitory room has a cell block containing 20 individual cells, making a total of 60 one-man cells on the three floors. The inmates in the Admissions & Orientation Unit are kept in the individual cells rather than in the dormitory room when possible. Plaintiff was in an individual cell on December 13 and 14. There is no information as to whether Stringfellow was in an individual cell on those nights. On December 15-16 the number of prisoners in the Admissions & Orientation Unit substantially exceeded the number of individual cells and those inmates for whom there were no individual cells, approximately 40, including Fleishour and Stringfellow, were assigned to the dormitory room for the night.

9. At 2:30 A.M. on December 16, 1960, Stringfellow assaulted the sleeping Fleishour by hitting him on the head with a tank type fire extinguisher which was situated in the dormitory.

10. The Bureau of Prisons employee in charge of the Admissions & Orientation Unit from 12:15 A.M. to 8:15 A.M., December 16, was Senior Correctional Officer Claude O. Connell. Officer Connell had responsibility for the supervision of the cell blocks on the upper three floors and the dormitory.

11. At the time of the assault Officer Connell was at his station in the Admissions & Orientation Unit on the floor above the dormitory where he was sorting mail. The officer's station consisted of a desk in the corridor of the stairway which ran from the dormitory room to the three floors of cell blocks. He heard a noise and checked his immediate surroundings on A tier. Upon hearing the noise again he immediately went to the floor below to investigate. When he entered the large dormitory he found an inmate, one Aldridge, holding Stringfellow, who was trying desperately to take off a pair of prison-issue socks which he was wearing on his hands. Officer Connell inquired as to what had occurred and then heard a moan to his left. There, he found the plaintiff lying on the floor, his head, back, and shoulders covered with blood.

12. Officer Connell immediately called his superior, Lieutenant Victor N. Downing, who was in the Control Center, a building next to the Admissions and Orientation Unit. Connell then returned to the inmates. He asked Stringfellow what he had used to strike Fleishour, but Stringfellow did not answer. Inmate Aldridge informed the officer that Stringfellow had hit Fleishour with a fire extinguisher, which Aldridge then pointed out and which was bloody. As Fleishour was removed to the hospital, Stringfellow was ...


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