You are here

Gregorio de la Rosa

Settlement reached in record-breaking lawsuit against GEO Group

A settlement was reached last month in a record-breaking lawsuit against the GEO Group in the beating death of Willacy County inmate Gregario de la Rosa in 2001, according to the Brownsville Herald ("Beating death lawsuit ends in settlement," 

A settlement agreement has been reached in the Willacy County civil case involving the prison firm Wackenhut Corrections Corp., known as the GEO Group, and Warden David Forrest in the beating death of Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. of Laredo.

The de la Rosa’s case involves one of the largest wrongful death judgments in the country. The judgment was in excess of $40 million.

The monetary settlement reached between the private prison group, former warden, insurers and de la Rosa’s family is being kept confidential, however.

"I am pleased to have brought justice to the de la Rosa family and am honored to have made a positive contribution to Texas law for the future protection of our people," said Laredo attorney Ron Rodriguez, who represented the de la Rosa family.

De la Rosa's death involved a brutal beating that was subsequently found to have been covered up by the GEO Group.  From the article,

The agreement follows a scathing opinion that the Thirteenth Court of Appeals issued in April. The appellate court rebuked the prison firm and warden, and affirmed the 2006 civil judgment that a Willacy County jury returned in excess of $40 million against the prison firm and Forrest for negligently causing de la Rosa Jr.’s death.

De la Rosa, according to the opinion, was beaten to death while prison officials first watched and later tried to cover up by losing and destroying evidence.

"We find that Wackenhut’s conduct was clearly reprehensible and, frankly, constituted a disgusting display of disrespect for the welfare of others and for this state’s civil justice system," the appellate court noted in its opinion. A few days before de la Rosa’s expected release from the Raymondville facility, two inmates beat the 33-year-old man to death on April 26, 2001.

The inmates used a lock tied to a sock while "Wackenhut’s officers stood by and watched and Wackenhut’s wardens smirked and laughed," the opinion observed.

It's nice to know that the family of de la Rosa has some closure in this clearly appalling case.

Court Upholds $47 Million Verdict Against GEO Group in de la Rosa Murder Case

The Thirteenth District Court of Appeals has affirmed a $47.5 (update, according to the Express-News, the judgment was actually $42.5 million) $42.5 million lawsuit judgement against the GEO Group to the family of Gregorio de la Rosa.  The court found that "Wackenhut’s conduct in maliciously causing Gregorio’s death and thereafter spoliating critical evidence so offends this Court’s sense of justice that a high ratio is warranted." 

De la Rosa, who is represented by Laredo attorney Ron Rodriguez, was brutally murdered in a GEO Group (then called Wackenhut) prison in Willacy County.  The first line of the court's judgment describes the case:

This case involves the horrific and gruesome death of Gregorio de la Rosa, Jr. (“Gregorio”). Gregorio, an honorably discharged former National Guardsman, was serving a six-month sentence at a prison operated by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation for possession of less than 1/4 grams of cocaine. A few days before his expected release, Gregorio was beaten to death by two other inmates using a lock tied to a sock, while Wackenhut’s officers stood by and watched and Wackenhut’s wardens smirked and laughed.

De la Rosa's case sparked the criminal indictment of GEO Group for murder in Willacy County last fall, a charge that was ultimately dismissed.   The appeals court opinion means that the bulk of the $47.5 million judgment will be awarded to de la Rosa's family.  According to the judgment , the company's testimony about the destroyed video evidence of de la Rosa's murder was inconsistent at best,

At trial, the family contended that a videotape existed that showed the beating but that this video had been lost or destroyed by Wackenhut.  Warden Forrest testified during his deposition that there was a video camera on one of the perimeter posts that was focused down on the beating.  In his sworn testimony, he admitted to seeing a tape of the beating and described the video and the beating in detail.  His stated that the video showed “that one inmate had beat another inmate with a sock filled with a lock,” and it showed an inmate kicking and punching Gregorio.

After reviewing his deposition, however, Warden Forrest changed his testimony, claiming that the video never existed.  At trial, he admitted to describing the video in his deposition testimony, but he claimed that his prior testimony describing the video was “based on all the information that I received regarding that incident over and over receiving information.” He explained that he had created his “own little movie” in his mind:

I did that based on all the information that I received regarding that incident over and over receiving information.  I put that picture—painted that picture in my head that I believed that’s what I saw, and that’s what I testified to, and I corrected it that day and at a later date. . . . I described what I thought I saw based on the information of everyone telling me what happened.  I painted a picture of that incident in my mind, and I played it over in my mind many, many times since then.

This judgment is certainly not good news for the GEO Group, which has been rocked by scandal after scandal here in Texas.  We'll keep you posted on developments on this case and other GEO scandals.

Blogging Categories: 
Subscribe to Gregorio de la Rosa