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  • Writer's pictureSam Orlando

Beltway Sniper Lee Malvo Files Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Red Onion State Prison Officials

Written by: Sam Orlando

FAIRFAX, VA — Lee Malvo, the infamous figure convicted for his role in the 2002 Washington D.C. area sniper attacks that left 10 people dead, has reignited public attention as he files a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Malvo alleges "retaliation" and "deliberate indifference" against prison officials at Red Onion State Prison, where he has been housed for the majority of his 21-year incarceration


In-Depth Lawsuit Details

In a legal filing dated August 17, 2023, the lawsuit lists as defendants Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke, Red Onion State Prison Warden Rick White, Major C. King, Unit Manager Larry Collins, Sgt. Thornsberry, and Sgt. Taylor. In a startling claim, Malvo argues that these prison officials have violated his civil rights under the Civil Rights Act, specifically Section 42 U.S.C. §1983.

The document contains a series of grave allegations, including prison staff disabling their body cameras during interactions with Malvo and making life-threatening remarks. It also accuses officials of delays and negligence in processing an Interstate Compact Application, intended to transfer Malvo to another state due to safety concerns. The application, he claims, has been languishing in administrative limbo, thereby jeopardizing his safety.

Adding another layer of complexity, the lawsuit charges that a known and active Blood Gang Leader was deliberately placed in the same Protective Custody unit as Malvo. This, according to Malvo, put him at a "substantial risk of harm."

Retaliation Claims—An Unending Cycle?

A pivotal element of the lawsuit involves retaliation claims. Malvo argues that after exercising his Constitutional right to file grievances against the conditions he faced, prison officials embarked on a campaign of retaliatory actions to silence him. One such allegation includes Sgt. Taylor issuing Malvo a "bogus charge" just 10 days before an important parole hearing. Further, the lawsuit alleges that Unit Manager Larry Collins and Sgt. Thornsberry "threatened his life" and subjected him to "unclean showers for an extended period of 3.5 hours."

Deliberate Indifference—A Troubling Pattern?

Of particular concern in the lawsuit is the claim of "deliberate indifference" by prison officials. Malvo states that they failed to adequately address the safety concerns associated with putting him in close quarters with a known Blood gang member in the Protective Custody unit. He alleges that this indifference exposes him to "a substantial risk of serious harm," a claim that, if proven, could carry significant legal implications.

Previous Solitary Confinement Adds Context

Lee Malvo emphasizes that he has already endured what most objective observers would classify as harsh conditions during his incarceration. After serving a staggering 16.5 years in solitary confinement, Malvo was released into Level 3 Protective Custody on November 20, 2019. The lawsuit posits that the alleged recent mistreatments are especially egregious when viewed against the backdrop of Malvo's already harsh punitive history.

Next Steps—What the Future Holds

The lawsuit concludes by seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages, leaving the public, legal experts, and activists keenly watching the developments. As these allegations are both grave and far-reaching, it remains to be seen how the court will rule on the matter.

Regardless of public opinion about Malvo's past crimes, the lawsuit has reignited a fierce debate over the ethics of prison management, the use of solitary confinement, and abuse of inmates' rights, prompting questions that extend far beyond his individual case.

Breaking Through News will bring updates when any of the Defendants respond to Malvo's complaint.

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