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Prisoner sues GEO over Reeves uprising and retaliation

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A prisoner w

ho helped negotiate the end of a major 2008 uprising at the GEO Group's Reeves County Detention Center is suing the private prison company claiming the GEO Group reneged on its promises and retaliated against him instead, according to the Odessa American ("Prisoner sues GEO Group," July 23),

Paul Ohaegbu claims GEO Group jail officials reneged on a promise that he and other prisoners involved in negotiations to resolve a hostage situation would not face prosecution. Last year, a federal grand jury indicted Ohaegbu and about two dozen of his fellow prisoners on federal riot charges.

While several of Ohaegbu’s co-defendants pleaded guilty and were sentenced to additional prison time, prosecutors dropped the charges against Ohaegbu, citing “insufficient evidence.” Ohaegbu claims jail officials became angry when the charges were dropped and fabricated an incident report to “convict” Ohaegbu of disorderly conduct at a disciplinary hearing and strip him of good time and privileges. Ohaegbu, 51, is seeking several million dollars in actual and punitive damages.

... The charges against Ohaegbu stemmed from a riot involving more than 1,200 prisoners at the Pecos lockup in December 2008. Court documents show the prisoners took two guards hostage and demanded better medical attention, food and recreation.

Ohaegbu, in a 14-page lawsuit he filed on his own behalf, offers a detailed prisoner’s perspective of the chaos, attributing the uprising to the outrage sparked by the death of Jesus Manuel Galindo, a 32-year-old epileptic prisoner.

“The inmates housed in the segregation became irate and started a fire in one of the cells,” Ohaegbu said in the suit. “The general population inmates saw a body bag being removed from segregation and became aware of the death.”

Court documents show the riot began after two prisoners in a cell across from Galindo’s exposed the wires behind an electrical outlet and used them to set fire to a mattress. “It sounds like a design flaw to me, but that’s how they started it the best we can tell,” FBI agent Justin E. Fleck told a panel of 20 grand jurors last year, according to a transcript of the hearing.

The December 2008 uprising was the first of two riots at the facility sparked by a rash of prisoner deaths.  The disturbances drew national media coverage to the facility, and caused more than $1 million to the facility.  We'll keep you posted on updates t