|Atty Colin Monahan|
A former inmate at Northampton County Prison has settled a year and a half long federal civil rights lawsuit for injuries he suffered after a brutal assault on January 31, 2009 by inmates who were part of a prison smuggling ring. John J. Mucha (“MOO-ka”) was serving a brief sentence for a DUI offense when he was assaulted in his cell by members of a contraband smuggling ring which included at least one prison guard and several inmates.
The suit, which settled for $200,000.00, alleged that Northampton County officials knew of serious problems at the prison relating to groups of inmates smuggling contraband items such as tobacco, cell phones, drugs and even homemade weapons into the prison.
Mr. Mucha was represented by Nicholas R. Sabatine, III, Esquire, of Wind Gap, Pennsylvania and Brian Monahan, Esquire, Colin Monahan, Esquire, and Joseph E. Welsh, Esquire, of Easton, Pennsylvania. Mr. Mucha’s counsel issued the following statement regarding the settlement: “We hope this settlement will focus the attention of all county officials and employees on what has been a long-standing stigma on the county and its penal system. The institutional culture of the prison has all too often rewarded those who abuse their positions, and punishes those who try to do the right thing. Justice requires that those who violate our laws are appropriately punished. Justice also requires that those who serve time in our prisons do so without having their civil rights violated.”
During the case, Mr. Mucha’s attorneys uncovered evidence of a widespread web of corruption involving numerous inmates, and even several guards, known as corrections officers. The evidence underscored the magnitude of the profit to be made in contraband. Pouches of tobacco which sell at convenience stores for several dollars were being sold inside for $50 each. Payments were usually arranged though a guard in conjunction with inmates’ relatives or friends.
Mr. Mucha’s Complaint averred that he suffered debilitating back injuries as a result of an assault in his cell when a guard electronically opened the cell door to allow inmates involved in tobacco trafficking to enter it. Mr. Mucha’s injuries required surgery and left him permanently disabled.
While entering into the settlement, Northampton County did not admit any wrongdoing. Nevertheless, the magnitude of the settlement should send a message to all Northampton County elected officials that it is in everyone’s interest to eradicate corruption within the prison and install effective procedures to prevent this type of incident from reoccurring.
It's a good thing that West Easton's DUI Center is in business.