Sing Sing Prisoners Fight State’s Efforts to Dismiss $13 Million Lawsuit 

Sing Sing Prison in the village of Ossining. Photo by Adan Wlpinsky

A $13 million lawsuit filed by Sing Sing Correctional Facility prisoners who allege they were brutally beaten by guards is continuing, with lawyers for the men fighting the state’s motions to dismiss their claims.   

In a memorandum filed Aug. 1, lawyers for the 26 prisoners theorize the prisonwide searches Nov. 7-10, 2022, may have been an attempt to thwart an escape plot or to demonstrate the need for solitary confinement in the men’s facility on Hunter Street in the village of Ossining. 

In her Aug. 30 response, state Deputy Assistant Attorney General Rachel Zaffrann accused the lawyers of “spinning a tale of conspiracy — based on unnamed and unidentified sources — and provide what is only speculation as to the impetus for the cell searches.” 

The prisoners’ lawsuit, filed in January, alleges that “a campaign of concerted and vicious gang-assaults” by guards and the Correctional Emergency Response Team sent at least seven men to the hospital and more than 20 others required medical treatment. 

The lawsuit alleges that during the searches, the men were forced “to strip down to their underwear, after which they were beaten mercilessly with hands, feet, and/or weapons. The gang assaults were degrading atrocities and reflected an entirely unreasonable use of force.”  

Sing Sing Prison in the village of Ossining. Photo by Adan Wlpinsky

Many of the prisoners named in the lawsuit continue to be held at Sing Sing, with some moved to other facilities. Twenty-five of the men are being represented by the Long Island law firm Barket Epstein Kearon Aldea & LoTurco; one man has retained his own attorney. 

The prisoners’ lawyers are opposing the state Attorney General’s Office’s attempts to have portions of the lawsuit dismissed and to have the remaining actions split into 26 separate cases. 

The lawsuit before Judge Linda Mejias-Glover in the state Court of Claims is seeking $500,000 in compensatory damages for each prisoner. The judge has not indicated when she would rule on the state’s motions or render a decision on the lawsuit.

Zaffrann sought in April to have the lawsuit’s claim of negligent failure to intervene dismissed, arguing in part that most of the men were unable to identify which guards had the opportunity to step in. Her Aug. 30 memorandum then argued the lawsuit was a federal claim that was outside the state court’s jurisdiction.

Attorney Alexander Klein of Barket Epstein countered that the lawsuit named many guards and said victims of group beatings were not required by law to identify who played what role. He called the state’s jurisdiction claim “meritless” in court papers.

“It’s sufficient that there were people there who could have intervened and who didn’t and were working for the state at that time,” Klein said recently.  

Some prisoners named in the lawsuit were charged with disciplinary violations during the searches, Zaffrann stated, including assaulting an officer and weapon possession. Officers are authorized to use force to defend themselves against an assault, she pointed out.

Klein called that contention “victim blaming. It’s part of the coverup of what happened here rather than a legitimate explanation for why it happened.” 

Zaffrann also argued the cases should be separated because of the individual aspects of each prisoner’s allegations rather than indications of a common plan. Combining them is prejudiced against the state’s case, she argued.

The prisoners allege the assaults were tied together as part of a “system-wide rampage” that “could have only come from a high-level directive within the State government.” 

“These men have responded to a concerted campaign of violence with a concerted campaign for justice,” Klein said. 

Claims that the alleged incidents were authorized by top-ranking officials are “devoid of any connection to the relevant law and the facts” laid out in the lawsuit, Zaffrann countered. 

The Attorney General’s Office is also arguing to dismiss the lawsuit’s claim of negligent hiring, training and supervision of prison personnel. A voicemail left for Zaffrann was not returned.  

Allegations contained in the lawsuit prompted an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI, according to the prisoners’ lawyers. Neither the state nor federal authorities have commented. 

Sing Sing is a maximum-security facility that holds about 1,700 prisoners. 

1 Comment

  1. On January 2, 2024, five officers beat my nephew while he was handcuffed with state issued batons and wrote up a fake report claiming he fell face forward. Contrary to the fabricated report My nephew received Staples on the back of his head. Officer P. Delovic, officer B.Colon are two of the officers along with another who refused to provide his name and rank. Sgt Brooks and Sgt Joseph who also present and did not intervene. Officer J. Francisco has been trying to intimidate my nephew since the assault by spitting in his food and threaten to make him disappear. As of today, he was told that he is being placed in solitary confinement for a period of 349 days with no visitation and no packages. Please help before they kill my nephew

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About the Author: Robert Brum