FARMINGTON – Two former jail inmates have filed separate lawsuits in Franklin County Superior Court against Sheriff Dennis Pike, jail supervisors and staff, claiming they were intentionally given poisoned food in 2008.
Attorney Jonathan Hull filed both complaints on behalf of Robert Ayer of New Sharon and Stephen Wing of Industry in late August and demands jury trial for both of them. The complaints, which appear nearly identical, claim the defendants were negligent or intentionally injured Ayer and Wing. They are both asking for compensation for damages, costs and interest, and any other relief the court deems just and equitable.
Hull was unavailable for comment Monday. Pike declined comment, because it's an ongoing case, he said.
Franklin County Clerk Julie Magoon said she mailed and faxed the suit last week to the Maine County Commissioners Association risk pool that provides the county with liability insurance. A lawyer will be assigned to the case, she said.
According to the complaints, Ayer was serving time for domestic assault and Wing for aggravated criminal trespass Sept. 5, 2008, when they were served a meal by jail staff that made them “violently ill.”
The suit claims the two men and a third inmate suffered “stomach aches and cramps, diarrhea, heartburn and gastrointestinal distress.”
The complaints claim that the meal Ayer was given and shared with Wing and another inmate had an “odd taste” but they consumed it and reported it to corrections officers.
According to the court document, a corrections officer admitted that corrections officers “deliberately adulterated and contaminated their food, either with pepper spray, mace or some other noxious chemical.” It also claims an officer told them that the staff watched the men eat the food and then laughed and joked about their “trick” when all three men became sick.
The complaints also accuse a corrections supervisor on duty of coming to their cell and “threatened the inmates with retaliation if they reported the incident or otherwise, made known that they had been intentionally poisoned by jail staff members.”
The men were sick for several days and requested medical attention and were denied it and continued to suffer for weeks, according to the suit.
The complaints state that as a result of reporting the incident, corrections officers retaliated, setting other inmates against them, attempting to instigate fights with other inmates, making threats to damage their property, and otherwise harass them.
The suit states that threats and harassment continued until their release: Wing in March 2009 and Ayer in September 2009. It also claims the men suffered significant pain and distress. It states they had sinus problems, difficulty chewing and swallowing food and multiple ear infections, among other problems, for an extended period of time, with some continuing today.