CDC - Legal Costs

Posted on Sat, May. 22, 2004 

State agrees to pay S.J. family of inmate
By Mark Gladstone
Mercury News Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO - The state Department of Corrections has agreed to pay a San Jose family $550,000 in the 1998 fatal shooting of a Salinas Valley Prison inmate by an officer nicknamed ``Top Gun.''

In confirming the agreement, J.P. Tremblay, a department spokesman, cautioned this week that the state was not admitting liability in the death of Mark Anthony Perez.

He was shot during a exercise-yard fistfight by Carlos Jacobo, an officer involved in about 30 shootings in his first 18 months on the job. That was more than any other officer at the prison during that time and helped him earn his nickname, according to Perez's attorneys.

The settlement of the federal court case comes as the state prison system is reeling from legislative inquiries into hundreds of millions in budget overruns and a federal court monitor's January report that the department failed to properly investigate rogue officers.

The settlement raises troubling questions for the state, said John Scott, a San Francisco attorney who represented the Perez family.

``For me it's symptomatic of an ongoing policy of not wanting to accept responsibility, not wanting to admit that there are failed shooting policies and bad shootings.''

The negotiations

The agreement was reached between the Attorney General's Office and three Perez family members -- his two children, ages 8 and 13, and his mother.

Perez, convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, was 25 when he was shot in the leg by a high-powered rifle while involved in a fistfight. He bled to death the next day during surgery, said James Chanin, another Perez family attorney.

According to a court declaration, another inmate said he saw the fight between Perez and inmate Darren Halliwell. The inmate said it was clear to him ``that this was a fistfight and that there were no weapons involved.''

Beginning of a fight

But Jacobo described it as more than a fistfight. He was assigned to a gun post overlooking two exercise yards. He had asked for relief so he could go to the bathroom.

His relief officer saw an altercation in which Halliwell had shaken off the blows of another inmate wielding a sharp object. That inmate left and Perez and Halliwell came to blows. The relief officer fired a warning shot of non-lethal wood blocks.

According to Perez family attorneys, Jacobo almost immediately shot Perez with his rifle. Jacobo's only words were ``get down.'' They also said he never warned Perez that he would use lethal force, didn't sound any alarms or whistles and failed to call for his supervisors, all required by department rules.

In his deposition, according to Perez family attorneys, Jacobo said Perez had weapons in both hands, although he told the attorneys he never actually saw them.

The department attorneys contended that Jacobo acted lawfully to restore order.

Jacobo, a 10-year veteran of the department now employed at Valley State Prison for Women, could not be reached for comment. A department spokesman would not say whether he was disciplined for the shooting, or comment on Jacobo's nickname or whether he was involved in other shootings.

Tremblay said the settlement was in the midrange for prison wrongful-death cases.

Contact Mark Gladstone at  or (916) 325-4314. 


June 17, 2002 


The family of the prisoner claimed the women's 
facility denied her proper medical care for her 

By Matthew King 

Daily Journal Staff Writer 

  SAN FRANCISCO - The California Department of Corrections has agreed to pay $201,000 to settle a wrongful death suit brought by the family of an inmate who was denied appropriate medical care for hepatitis C. 
        According to lawyers at Justice Now, an Oakland nonprofit organization, the suit was one of 
the first in the nation to challenge the standard of care in prison for hepatitis C, also known as HCV. 
        "This settlement is essentially an admission of the Department of Corrections' inability to address this epidemic," said Cynthia Chandler, co-director of Justice Now and counsel for the family of Rosemary Willeby, who died in October 1999. She had a year left of a three-year drug possession sentence at the Central California Women's Facility. "What happened to Ms. Willeby is altogether too common." 
        According to Chandler, prison officials ignored Willeby's warnings that she had HCV and 
included her in an aggressive tuberculosis treatment program that included medications known to be harmful to people with hepatitis. The officials also refused to let her see a liver specialist until 10 days before her death. She was 47. 
        The case, Willeby v. Terhune, CIVS-00-2349GEB, was filed in federal court in Sacramento. 
      "Even as her stomach swelled and she looked nine months' pregnant, no one ever treated her for the condition she had," said Cassandra Shaylor, co-director of Justice Now. "Her continued treatment with medications that are labeled 'liver toxic' constituted a clear violation of her Eighth Amendment rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment." 
        CDC spokeswoman Terry Thornton declined to comment on the settlement. 
        In addition to the wrongful death charges, the suit also claims that state prison officials routinely 
and wantonly misinform families about the medical conditions of inmates. In Willeby's case, prison staff mistakenly reported her death and later described her as being in stable condition when she was about to die. 
        "Those practices are fairly commonplace," Chandler said. "They act as though they have no duty or obligation to contact families regarding inmates' health. They denied that Ms. Willeby was even seriously ill." 
        Chandler said her organization expects those problems will worsen if the CDC adopts the new visitor regulations it opened to public comment last month. 
        If adopted as written, the regulations will classify visitation as a privilege rather than as a 
        According to Chandler, the new guidelines will prevent some drug offenders from receiving visits for the first year of their sentence and will require minors to have valid identification to visit 
        "Those kinds of regulations are why Ms. Willeby's family never got to say goodbye," Chandler 
said. "If prison officials had acted properly, she would not have had to die alone."

Spiraling Legal Costs Have Busted Budget of Corrections Dept.

Pamela J. Podger, Chronicle Staff Writer 

May 27, 1999 

California's troubled Department of Corrections has paid out so much in settlements and judgments that it has exhausted its legal funds three months before the end of the fiscal year. 

The agency's $15.5 million settlement fund was drained by late March, officials acknowledged, prompting the department to request a special appropriation to see it through to June 30. 

The hemorrhaging legal costs are seen by department critics as evidence of the agency's poor handling of prisoner rights issues, as well as continuing neglect of medical and mental health care for inmates. 

Steve Fama of the Prison Law Office in San Rafael, a prisoner rights group, said yesterday he was not surprised the department used up the funds in settlements and judgments. 

``It is the inevitable result of years of bad policy and neglect of prisoners,'' Fama said. ``I think the department still has substantial exposure to successful legal action in the area of medical and mental health care.'' 

According to state statistics, the Department of Corrections paid settlements or judgments in 113 cases this fiscal year. Of those, 85 involved suits filed by inmates. The remainder were filed by employees and contractors. 

It is a settlement trend that many expect to continue. Governor Gray Davis, for example, has already proposed nearly doubling the legal settlement fund to about $28.8 million for next fiscal year. Department director Cal Terhune has gone even further, predicting a worst-case scenario of $39.6 million for legal settlements for the upcoming budget year. 

Pamela Smith-Steward, the department's deputy director for legal affairs, said she hopes ``we've reached the pinnacle and maybe these won't continue to grow.'' 

``But it is hard to crystal-ball anything as dynamic as litigation.'' 

The department has asked the Legislature for nearly $77 million in special funding to get it through the fiscal year and it was not clear yesterday how much of the request is for legal settlements. 

Lawmakers, meanwhile, want to know what the Department of Corrections is doing to control its legal costs and ensure these problems do not plague the 33 prison system in the future. 

Senate Majority Leader Richard Polanco, D-Los Angeles, said he will scrutinize the department's legal exposure with upcoming hearings. 

In January, the department paid a record $2.5 million settlement to the widow and mother of convicted murderer, Mark Adams, who was fatally shot by San Quentin guards during an inmate brawl on the exercise yard. 

``The story is the Adams case shocked them and set them back a little,'' said attorney Leroy Lounibos, who represented Adams' relatives. ``Right now, the department is impoverished on the street corner with a tin cup. They are learning the hard way, but they are also doing a lot to try and avoid this in the future.'' 

He noted that a court-ordered settlement conference on an inmate case pending in federal court was canceled in April because of the department's depleted fund. 
The department also made a $825,000 settlement in November for the wrongful death of Preston Tate, a convicted rapist who was fatally shot in 1994 by Corcoran State Prison guards during a yard fight. 

And recently, the department settled a $2.2 million case involving Vincent Tulumis, who was paralyzed for life by a bullet shot into a Corcoran exercise yard in 1993. 
Smith-Steward said the payments for the Tulumis case will be postponed until next year's budget is passed
New harassment trial for lesbian officer

Thursday, November 15, 2001 

A Santa Clara County judge has thrown out a nearly $1 million jury award to a lesbian police officer who said she was harassed and fired after telling a supervisor that strip-searching prisoners was giving her anxiety attacks. Superior Court Judge William F. Martin instead ordered a new trial for Dawn Goodman, who had told the jury that the male sergeant she consulted for advice said, "Do you get aroused doing strip searches of women?" Her attorney said she took two leaves totaling 10 months in 1998 when the department fired her under what was officially termed a "voluntary" resignation. Goodman won her case in August, but Martin on Nov. 9 granted the city's request for a new trial, saying the jury's verdict was not supported by the evidence. 

Published on April 6, 2001, 
The Sacramento Bee 

Suit claims poor inmate care

The state's prisons are accused of civil rights violations for allegedly failing to offer adequate medical services.Already facing a multimillion-dollar tab to pay off sick prisoners' lawsuits, California was hit Thursday with an omnibus civil rights complaint demanding "adequate medical care" for all of the state's 160,000 inmates. 

The class action accuses the state of violating inmates' constitutional rights by denying medical care or giving bad care, causing "severe and unnecessary pain, injury and death." 

The Davis administration acknowledged serious 

Published on May 15, 1999, 
Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA) 


OAKLAND A federal judge ordered the state to fix "shocking and appalling" conditions at some state facilities after hearing from a parade of convicts with disabilities, including one who had to crawl up a flight of stairs to attend a parole hearing. 

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken means the state Board of Prison Terms will have to upgrade facilities and programs to federal standards for all inmates with disabilities. 

"These disabled prisoners and. . . 

Published on December 31, 1999, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


A former prison guard whose testimony triggered investigations of prisoner abuses has won a $70,000 settlement from Contra Costa County after claiming the sheriff's department later rejected his job application. 

Richard Caruso and another guard at Corcoran State Prison broke a code of silence in 1994 to expose deadly shootings of inmates at the prison. Their testimony resulted in federal probes of the state prison system. 

Caruso said last year in a federal civil rights suit that a. . . 

Published on December 7, 1999, 
Valley Times (Pleasanton, CA) 


A former Dublin prison guard was sentenced Monday to five months behind bars for having sex with female inmates and lying to investigators about the trysts. 

Jon C. Hyson, 38, of San Jose will also serve five months in a halfway house and six months of home detention under a sentence imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken. 

Federal prosecutors wanted Hyson to serve the maximum sentence of 16 months in jail. His attorney asked for five months jail time and five months. . . 

Published on June 11, 1999, 
Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA) 


FRESNO - California has agreed to pay $1.7 million to whistleblower Richard Caruso, a former guard at Corcoran State Prison who broke the code of silence and exposed a pattern of deadly shootings of inmates, only to lose his career. 

The settlement came together late Wednesday after months of negotiations in which top officials, including Gov. Gray Davis, had urged a resolution to Caruso's five-year ordeal. 

"The nightmare is finally over," Caruso said. "Now I can take. . . 

Published on May 27, 1999, 
Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA) 


The state Department of Corrections has spent its entire fund for legal settlements and judgments well before the end of the fiscal year. 

The depletion is due to an unusually busy and expensive run of paying out millions of dollars in awards for inmate deaths and injuries. 

As a result, as far back as April 9, state officials were forced to cancel a court-ordered settlement conference on an inmate lawsuit pending in federal district court. The declaration came nearly 12 weeks. . . 


Published on March 7, 2000, Sacramento Bee 

A correctional officer who claims she was raped twice by a sergeant at the California Department of Corrections' training facility in Galt has been paid $250,000 by the department to settle her civil rights lawsuits. 

The woman's complaints about Sgt. Jack Cherry in 1997 led to the firing of the longtime correctional officer on charges ranging from dishonesty to disobedience.A Corrections Department investigation supported her claim that she was raped by Cherry, noting there was. . . 

Published on February 24, 2000, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


Pelican Bay State Prison guards shot 13 inmates, killing one, as they struggled to quell a racial brawl Wednesday morning in an exercise yard filled with some of the state's most dangerous criminals. 

An additional 35 inmates were treated for less serious injuries -- mostly slashing and stabbing wounds inflicted with the approximately 50 homemade weapons sneaked into the yard in apparent preparation for the melee, officials for the maximum security prison said. 

The rioting at the. . . 

Published on August 5, 1999, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


Three prisoners were shot to death by guards breaking up inmate fights, and a dozen other inmates died in clashes between prisoners as violence persisted in state prisons last year. 

The number of deaths attributed to violence was just one fewer than in 1997, and non-lethal fights among inmates in California's overcrowded prisons increased over the previous year, a recently released state Corrections Department report shows. 

While acknowledging new department policies aimed at curbing. . . 

 Published on August 4, 1998, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


An internal inquiry into inmate abuse at Corcoran State Prison was stymied after investigators were told that prison guard union representatives had met with top officials in Gov. Pete Wilson's administration, witnesses testified Monday. 

After the meeting, Department of Corrections investigators learned they couldn't make officers talk about allegations that problem inmates were purposely locked into a cell and subjected to repeated rapes by a fierce inmate nicknamed the. . . 

For Immediate Release 
December 31, 1998 


The California Department of Corrections (CDC) has settled a civil rights lawsuit brought by the family of an inmate who was fatally shot by a correctional officer during a yard disturbance in 1994. The estate of Mark Adams, Adams’ widow and mother, and their attorney John Houston Scott will share the $2.5 million settlement award. 

"We were shocked by the jury’s punitive damage award at such an outrageous level and believe that it was inappropriately awarded," said CDC’s Chief Counsel, Pam Smith-Steward. "The individuals named in this suit were unfairly blamed for the violence that inevitably erupts in a prison setting. In this case, Adams, a convicted murderer and prison escapee, attacked another inmate on the San Quentin yard. He ignored all orders to desist and two warning shots. We do not feel that the taxpayers should pay when officers responded appropriately to inmate-on-inmate violence. 

In announcing this settlement, Smith-Steward emphasized that the agreement to pay the plaintiffs grew from a desire to save the California taxpayers the risk of additional legal fees required to appeal the judgment or to retry the case in the event that the defendants’ motion for a new trial was granted. 
Mark Adams killed a young member of a respected Modesto family with strong ties to law enforcement in a botched robbery attempt on August 17, 1979. He was convicted of murder and robbery in 1982. 

On November 30, 1998, a jury in federal court in San Francisco awarded Adam’s estate, his widow and mothers a total of $2.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages for the fatal shooting. In addition, plaintiffs’ counsel would have claimed more than $1 million in legal fees from the state. 

"The two Corrections officials who received punitive damage awards were holding tough jobs," said CDC Director C.A. Terhune. "Very few, if any, employees of other organizations face such difficult situations. These punitive damages have a profound effect on attracting and retaining high-caliber and high-talented corrections individuals. Unfortunately, appeals and other legal attempts to vindicate the honor of the Corrections officials named as defendants will only cost the taxpayers more money over several more years of litigation—for an uncertain result. Since two of them faced personal liability for punitive damages, we and the Office of the Attorney General also felt that a settlement was in the best interests of the state and was reasonable."### 


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