After losing an eye for not helping Black Guerrilla Family prison-gang conspiracy, a Baltimore man wants his jailers to pay

City Paper

The notorious Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) prison-gang leader Tavon White, now serving a 12-year prison sentence for leading a massive racketeering conspiracy inside the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC), was fully in charge of the jail’s contraband economy back in 2012. His scheme was simple: pay corrupt correctional officers (COs) to smuggle banned items such as cellphones, tobacco, and drugs into the facility, and have “working men”—detainees whose jail jobs allow them to move around more freely than other inmates—dispatch the smuggled items and payments for them back and forth between COs and BGF members. It all came crashing down with a federal indictment unsealed in April 2013.

One such working man, though, wouldn’t join in White’s scheme when asked to in early 2012. Larry Washington, now 54 and serving a 20-year burglary sentence, paid dearly when BGF members attacked him in his BCDC cell not once, but twice, causing injuries, including the loss of his left eye and failing sight in his remaining eye, that have necessitated ongoing medication for pain and panic attacks.

Washington now claims officials in charge of the jail should pay, too, since they “chose not to protect” him from the BGF’s brutal retribution, “either intentionally or with deliberate indifference” to his safety, even though they “knew of and disregarded the excessive risk” he faced from the BGF, according to his lawsuit, filed in Maryland U.S. District Court on March 3.

Washington’s case is filed against seven Maryland prison-system officials responsible for BCDC when Washington was attacked: former state corrections secretary Gary Maynard; BCDC’s former warden, Marion Tuthill, who voluntarily retired months before the White indictment was unsealed; former BCDC security chief Shavella Miles, who was fired shortly after the indictment; and four lower-level correctional employees at BCDC, including a captain, two sergeants, and a CO.

Washington’s lawsuit does not specify how much money he’s seeking, but states generally that he wants to court to award him “monetary damages” in “an amount to be determined at trial” for “all harm suffered as a result of Defendants’ conduct,” along with “such other and further relief to which he may show himself entitled.”

The man named as Washington’s main attacker, Brandon Dovi, is described in the lawsuit as “a known member” of the BGF who is about 30 years younger than Washington. In early 2012, Dovi asked Washington to “transport contraband for the BGF within the detention center by picking it up from certain correctional officers who worked for the BGF and depositing it with others, including Antonia Allison and Ebonee Braswell, both of whom are named in the April 2013 indictment.”

(Allison, who in 2010 settled a separate lawsuit alleging she facilitated another gang-related attack on an inmate at BCDC, is due to be sentenced on March 10 after pleading guilty last September to the racketeering conspiracy. Braswell also pleaded guilty, and last June was sentenced to 37 months in prison.)

Dovi, who’s currently serving a 10-year state prison sentence for attempted-murder charges brought before the attacks on Washington, “made it clear” to Washington that White “wanted him to act at the behest of the BGF,” the lawsuit states. But Washington “did not feel comfortable working for the BGF,” and “refused,” so Dovi “persuaded” a CO to open Washington’s cell door the next day. Dovi “and approximately four other known BGF members” entered Washington’s cell and attacked him “in full view of the officers and other inmates.”

Dovi was dubbed the “principal assailant” and was “then placed in punitive segregation,” the lawsuit states. Washington, meanwhile, “was relocated” to a section of the Women’s Detention Center reserved for men, but the BGF still kept up “harassment and threats of retribution” against him there. So he was “relocated twice more” to a housing section where he was “seemingly out of harm’s way”—until Dovi, once released from segregation, “was inexplicably placed” in the same section.

When Washington saw Dovi housed in the same section, he immediately alerted the correctional chain of command, “explaining that he feared he would be attacked again, or worse, if he was not relocated,” but “nothing happened,” the lawsuit states. Even after Dovi “began threatening” him, Washington was told by officials “that they could not relocate him to another housing unit.” So Washington “wrote multiple letters” to Tuthill, Miles, and other correctional staff, asking them “to take minimum steps to protect” him. “None of his requests were heeded,” even though it was clear Washington “would very likely be attacked by the BGF again because the BGF habitually attacked inmates who refused to cooperate with their criminal schemes.”

On May 29, 2012, Dovi asked Washington to pick up some contraband from Allison and Braswell for the BGF and White, the lawsuit contends. When Washington refused, Dovi—who in 2011 and 2012, while the attempted-murder charges against him were still pending, was twice convicted of possessing a weapon inside a place of correction—said he would “stab him that night” if he didn’t. So Washington, “fearing for his life,” “continued to request aid” from Tuthill, Miles, and other correctional staff.

Help never arrived, and two days later, the BGF struck. Dovi and several other BGF members “told the duty officer during morning recreation that they had ‘left something inside Mr. Washington’s cell,’” the lawsuit states, and “this transparent subterfuge easily gained them access, and she opened the door for them.” As Washington came down from his bunk, they “pulled him to the ground, savagely beating and kicking him,” and “one of them stabbed him in his left eye with a sharp object” as “another inmate yelled out that they were ‘going to kill him.’”

After COs responded to the attack, Washington, whose ribs were broken, was transported to the Johns Hopkins Hospital. There, doctors at the Wilmer Eye Institute eventually “surgically removed” his eye “when they determined that they could not save it.”

Washington’s lawsuit, initially filed in December 2013 as a typewritten form, survived a dismissal motion argued by assistant attorney general Donald Hoffman on behalf of Maynard, Tuthill, and captain Karen Moore. In an order filed last April, U.S. District judge George Russell ruled that “the duty of prison officials to protect inmates from harm at the hands of fellow inmates has been clearly established for years,” and that Washington be provided with counsel. Since then, DLA Piper’s Brett Ingerman and Keelan Diana have represented Washington.

Washington’s attorneys and Hoffman both declined to comment.

 

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