In the Hole
In what may be the largest settlement of its kind, the State of Colorado has agreed to pay $70,000 to a prison inmate who was raped by a former cellmate. And although the state doesn't have to admit liability in the case, the payment is based on claims by the plaintiff that Department of Corrections officials showed callous indifference in placing him in a cell with "a known sexual predator."
But the outcome is something the government would rather the public didn't know. Denver defense attorney David Lane, who represents the inmate, says the state attorney general's office tried to keep the deal quiet by shielding the settlement under a confidentiality agreement. Lane refused. "I want the public to see where their tax dollars are going when elected officials brutalize human beings," he says.
According to court records, on July 24, 1993, Craig Maynard (Westword agreed to change the victim's name for this story because of concerns for his safety) was placed in a cell with the Department of Correction's state weightlifting champion, a lifer named Marvin Gray. There are lots of scary guys in prison, but Gray is very high on that list. In trouble since he was at least sixteen, Gray has done time for robbery and assault. In 1985 he was convicted of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of a woman along the banks of Cherry Creek. He was sentenced to sixteen years for stabbing her fourteen times.
Crime and Punishment
Westword reporting on the criminal justice system and the corrections industry.
Two years later, Gray was charged with his first in-prison rape. He was found guilty following an administrative hearing and sent to the maximum-security prison in Cañon City.
He was paroled in January 1991 and skipped town a couple of days later. But the following year, he was arrested for robbery and sent back to prison, this time for good. He was deemed a habitual criminal and given three life terms.
Gray couldn't stay out of trouble, even behind bars. In November 1992 he was charged with killing another prisoner. The charge didn't keep prison officials from double-bunking Gray with other prisoners, however, and on July 19, 1993, Gray was given a new cellmate, a 27-year-old who was in on a contraband rap.
The next morning, the man reported he'd been beaten, knocked unconscious and raped. He wouldn't say who'd assaulted him, but he was put on a suicide watch and moved out of Gray's cell. On July 20, Gray got another new roommate. That man lasted less than a day; when he learned he was to bunk with Gray, he demanded to be moved.
So prison officials moved Maynard in.
A captain of the prison guards later admitted in a written statement that he knew Gray had a history as a sexual predator but he believed that moving another large weightlifter into a cell with him would "reduce the potential for another sex assault." The captain failed to mention that Gray outweighed Maynard by 120 pounds.
The trouble started soon after lights out, Maynard told Westword in a 1995 interview ("Hard Time," October 25, 1995). Gray started getting worked up over the necessity of forming "emotional bonds" while in prison. Part of that tie, he explained to Maynard, was physical bonding. At about 3 a.m., Maynard said, Gray attacked him, choking him into near-unconsciousness, then sexually assaulted him.
Maynard decided to hell with the convict code of silence, and he told a guard what had happened. Gray was slam-dunked into solitary, and the following day, after learning that he was locked up, the victim of the July 19 assault also named Gray as his attacker.
After an administrative hearing later that summer, Gray was sent to the Colorado State Penitentiary, where he continues to be locked down 23 hours a day.
In October 1993, Maynard filed suit against five prison officials, claiming they'd knowingly placed his life in danger.
The case moved at a snail's pace over the next five years. At one point, says Lane, the case languished in federal court for three years awaiting a decision from U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham on the state's motion to dismiss. It took an order by the 10th Circuit Court to get Nottingham to act. Eventually, Nottingham sided with Lane. The attorney general's office appealed the ruling, but a decision again went for Lane. A trial date was set for July.
Only then did the state offer to settle, says Lane. "This guy spent seven years fighting this case, and then they settle," he fumes.
The spokesman for the attorney general's office, Ken Lane (no relation to David), says the facts "were not particularly good on either side" to argue a case and that the decision to settle was an economic one.
The attorney general's initial offer of $50,000 was unpalatable to David Lane and his client, even though the state agreed to accept an offer of judgment (a civil version of a nolo contendere plea, or an implied confession). They opted for more money; the attorney general's office agreed but said if that was the case, the state wouldn't admit liability, David Lane says. Ken Lane says his office doesn't discuss "negotiating matters."
When it came time to sign the agreement, David Lane noticed, the state had slipped in a confidentiality agreement that would have put the wraps on the details. (The settlement would remain public record, but attorneys would not be permitted to speak about it, and the information would be much more difficult to uncover.) "They tried to slimeball it past me," David Lane says indignantly. "They said they assumed I would agree. They said the DOC doesn't like to give press conferences. And I said my client didn't like getting fucked up the ass by Marvin Gray."
The confidentiality requirement was excised from the settlement.
Confidentiality agreements are standard operating procedure, says Ken Lane. "Of course, the parties have to agree to it," he adds. "If not, no harm, no foul."
"Only if the public knows will they hold [elected officials] accountable," David Lane says. "I want taxpayers to realize that their money is going to convicts and their lawyers."
For Maynard, it is a Pyrrhic victory. He has been in an untold number of fights with people he identifies as Gray's friends. His jaw has been broken, other bones cracked. He ended up in maximum security for a time for fighting. And it's not as though he can use the settlement as a retirement fund: He's doing a life term as a habitual burglar.
David Lane says Maynard plans to give some of the settlement money to his mother. Some of the money will go to Lane's firm. And Maynard plans to use some of it to hire Lane to appeal his conviction on the habitual-criminal charge.
As part of the settlement, the DOC has agreed to move Maynard to a prison where he has friends. Maynard says he wants to make sure he's got buddies who can watch his back.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Westword's biggest stories.