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2 Virginia prison supervisors named in death of a disabled inmate in amended suit

Charles Givens in an undated photo.
Kymberly Hobbs
Charles Givens in an undated photo.

Attorneys representing the sister of Charles Givens — a disabled inmate at Virginia's Marion Correctional Treatment Center who died after allegedly being beaten by correctional staff — have filed a new federal complaint now naming two prison supervisors.

NPR first wrote about this case last year in a story that detailed allegations of abuse Givens may have suffered while incarcerated at Marion in a special unit for inmates with disabilities and mental illness.

The original lawsuit filed last February by Givens' sister, Kym Hobbs, and her attorneys, Paul Stanley and Mark Krudys, alleged that Marion correctional officers Anthony Raymond Kelly, Gregory Scott Plummer, Joshua Jackson, William Zachary Montgomery and Samuel Dale Osborne participated in the savage beating of 52-year-old Givens to some degree, ultimately killing him.

In their previous answer to Hobbs' lawsuit, the five officers have denied any wrongdoing. None of them have been criminally charged.

Attorneys for the officers didn't immediately respond to NPR's request for comment on this new complaint.

This new, amended lawsuit filed Sunday now includes Capt. Travis S. Poston and now-former Marion Warden Jeffery Artrip as defendants along with the five previously named prison officers. It also lists a host of other gruesome allegations of conditions for inmates at Marion and the alleged inaction by prison supervisors when presented with evidence of abuse.

Artrip was Marion's warden at the time of Givens' death. He has since left that facility to serve as warden at another prison under the Virginia Department of Corrections system.

Poston was the supervising officer to the five previously named correctional staff that Hobbs and her attorneys allege beat Givens to death. It's unclear whether he is still employed within the VADOC system.

No attorney information for Poston or Artrip was available.

The Virginia Department of Corrections didn't respond to NPR's request for comment. Hobbs' attorneys have not made a public statement on the new complaint.

The lawsuit seeks at least $15 million in monetary damages.

Givens was placed in Marion because of his diminished mental capacity after he killed his mother's home health care nurse in March 2010. He suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child and was left with the emotional and intellectual development of a second- or third-grader, his sister previously shared with NPR. He experienced delusions, according to his medical history.

Allegations brought against Marion supervisors

The complaint alleges that Poston and Artrip "disregarded obvious physical evidence of repeated beatings and torture" carried out by the officers on Givens.

"The indifference of these supervisors to CO [correctional officer] violence and cruelty against Mr. Givens (and other prisoners) created an environment of no accountability for such actions, which was no doubt seen as tacit approval, which directly resulted in Mr. Givens' death," the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint says Givens was transferred to a local hospital outside of the prison several times over the years — with some stays lasting several days at a time. The lawsuit also alleges that there were several documented injuries and incident reports that would have been seen by Artrip and known to Poston. These reports "would have provided context to Mr. Givens' five hospitalizations for hypothermia in 2021, as well as his constant, merciless detention in the 'hole,' " the lawsuit alleges, referring to a segregated cell used to house inmates as punishment.

Givens was allegedly attacked and beaten to death by officers on Feb. 5, 2022. But there are numerous documented occasions going back to 2014, when Givens allegedly suffered serious injuries and may have been physically abused by correctional officers, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit alleges Poston was the supervising officer on many of these occasions, when lawyers say Givens suffered serious injuries including head trauma, an eye laceration, burns from scalding hot shower water and "two separate instances (in February 2021 and October 2021) of likely cold-water torture of Mr. Givens, resulting in hypothermia."

Poston and Artrip didn't discipline any officers when these instances were reported and instead retained abusive officers, the complaint says.

The complaint claims that Poston and Artrip "acted in a manner that was deliberately indifferent to Mr. Givens' Eighth Amendment rights."

The body of Charles Givens is carried out on a stretcher after he was found unresponsive at Marion Correctional Treatment Center on Feb. 5, 2022.
/ Marion Correctional Treatment Center surveillance video
/
Marion Correctional Treatment Center surveillance video
The body of Charles Givens is carried out on a stretcher after he was found unresponsive at Marion Correctional Treatment Center on Feb. 5, 2022.

Officers allegedly abused inmates in Marion's shower room

The lawsuit also details more grisly allegations of Givens' suffering while at Marion.

Givens had Crohn's disease, which causes inflammation of the digestive tract, and soiled himself a number of times while incarcerated.

This new complaint alleges that frequently, correctional officers who were charged with the care of Givens and other inmates ignored when Givens soiled his clothes. They would leave him to lie in his own urine and feces for hours, which may have led to "painful medical complications," lawyers allege.

This included a documented case of an abscess ulcer on Givens' hip in 2016, according to Hobbs' attorneys.

The shower room, where Givens was allegedly fatally beaten in 2022, was the place where officers often carried out their abuse against Givens and other inmates, the complaint alleges.

"Former MCTC prisoners and cadre have stated that the shower room was a principal area in which prisoners were abused by COs. The COs even had an expression for the practice; they called it 'being taken to the office,' " the lawsuit says.

This room has no cameras. The showers themselves are described as "mini cells with the faucet outside of the shower, which can only be controlled by the COs." That means the temperature of the water is controlled by the guards.

Inmates like Givens could suffer burns, but frequently were sprayed with ice-cold water by guards, the lawsuit alleges.

In addition to that, outside of the shower room, officers would purposely open cell windows — windows inmates could not close themselves — during the winter to expose the inmates to the cold, according to claims by a witness who NPR is not naming out of concern for his personal safety.

This witness, who spoke in video testimony previously reviewed by NPR, said several inmates at Marion, including Givens, were hospitalized in the prison medical unit for hypothermia several times because of the cold.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Jaclyn Diaz
Jaclyn Diaz is a reporter on Newshub.