Suit Alleges Abuse during Inmate Shakedown

By Franci Richardson
Boston Herald [Shirley MA]
October 17, 2003

The MCI-Shirley shakedown of 2000 that critics alleged was "whitewashed" by one of the three panel members probing ex-priest John J. Geoghan's murder has resurfaced with a lawsuit filed yesterday on behalf of 25 inmates who were injured.

Mark Reilly, a Department of Correction investigator appointed to the Geoghan panel by the state Department of Public Safety, found no fault with the way a special operations team conducted itself with inmates while looking for drugs and guns in 2000. But the lawsuit filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court alleges 25 inmates - 21 of them black - were abused by guards during a several-day "free-for-all."

"(The commander) would have a magnet and he'd put the magnet on top of the doorframe and that meant, `go in and get him' to the tactical team," said a former DOC employee who witnessed several hours of what he called a "free-for-all" beating.

A Nov. 7, 2000, report from a former prison superintendent-turned-chaplain detailed the abuse, which included inmates having their heads banged against the wall, legs injured by "twisting it upward," being dragged by guards, and being bitten by a dog.

"The officer slapped inmate on head and face with one hand and grabbed him by the throat with the other," read the report from Paul Poyser. "Head banged against the window . . . complained that their clothing and other properties were vandalized by pouring pepper sauce and pickle juice over them."

After Geoghan was strangled and beaten to death, allegedly by Joseph L. Druce, the state put together a three-member panel - including Reilly - to investigate Geoghan's death and whether DOC followed protocol.

Leslie Walker, executive director for Massachusetts Correction Legal Services, said Reilly's report on the Shirley shakedown gives her little confidence in his ability to investigate the Geoghan murder objectively.

"The fact that Mark Reilly is the author of the main DOC (2000) investigation that whitewashes the incident casts serious doubt on his credibility on the investigation into the Geoghan murder," she said.

Reilly's spokeswoman could not be reached for comment last night.

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