DOVER, Del. (AP) — A federal court jury has awarded $500,000 in punitive damages to an inmate who accused a Delaware prison guard of sexually assaulting him during a pat down in 2014.
After a two-day trial, the jury on Tuesday found that Sergeant William Kuschel violated the Eighth Amendment rights of inmate DeShawn Drumgo during the incident, but that Drumgo had failed to prove he had been injured. Jurors awarded Drumgo $1 in nominal damages but slapped Kuschel with half a million dollars in punitive damages.
Drumgo said in a lawsuit that Kuschel patted and groped him inappropriately as other inmates and staff watched, then squeezed his genitals so hard that the skin ruptured while other guards laughed.
A federal appeals court panel ruled last year that a district court judge had wrongly granted summary judgment to Kuschel. The judge’s ruling was based on Drumgo’s supposed failure to show sufficient facts to establish that Kuschel violated his constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
Other Department of Correction workers testified that the search was proper, and that they never heard Drumgo tell Kuschel to stop what he was doing, as other inmates had said.
DOC officials had won a previous summary judgment ruling after arguing that Drumgo had failed to exhaust available administrative remedies before filing his lawsuit. They said there was no record in the prison database indicating that Drumgo had filed a grievance.
But after Drumgo successfully appealed that ruling, prison officials told the court a subsequent search found that Drumgo did file a grievance against Kuschel. Officials said the grievance was docketed in a separate database for confidentiality reasons because it involved allegations of sexual misconduct.
Drumgo was sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2007 after being convicted of second-degree murder in the 2006 stabbing death of another man at a Wilmington apartment complex.