Friday, June 21, 2013

NJ - Gloucester County corrections officer (Thomas Hahn) pleads guilty, sentenced in arranging prisoner beating; civil suit filed

Original Article


By Carly Q. Romalino

A Gloucester County corrections officer, who pleaded guilty to a third-degree assault in March, forfeited his employment with the county this month, the same day he was sentenced to probation.

The officer — Thomas Hahn, 34, of Pitman — and Gloucester County have been named in a civil lawsuit filed this month by the estate of now-deceased county jail inmate [name withheld], whose family maintains Hahn orchestrated the pre-trial detainee’s jailhouse beating.

[name withheld], a 20-year-old who had been charged with the sexual assault of minors at the time of the alleged beating, died from causes unrelated to the incident, according to the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office.

Hahn was indicted by a grand jury last year on charges that he arranged a fight between inmates inside the Gloucester County Jail in September 2011. Hahn had been a Pitman School Board member at the time.

The county had suspended Hahn without pay on Nov. 18, 2011, according to Gloucester County spokeswoman Debra Sellitto. The employment status was maintained until he forfeited his public employment on June 3, a condition of his sentence, according to prosecutor’s office spokesman Bernie Weisenfeld.

In addition to forfeiture of any public employment in New Jersey, Hahn was sentenced on June 3 to three years probation.

Two co-defendant jail inmates — James M. Foulke and Robert Kurth — both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated assault. Foulke was sentenced to time served in jail, totaling 365 days, and Kurth was sentenced to two years probation.

Days after this month’s sentencing, attorneys for the [name withheld] estate filed a civil lawsuit against Hahn and the county, seeking monetary damages and answers surrounding the beating.

We’re seeking monetary damages because that’s all the law really offers,” said Rebecca Higbee, the Pitman-based attorney who filed the civil suit with state Superior Court in Gloucester County on June 6.

I can tell you the money is secondary. To ([name withheld]’s) mother, she wants answers. She wants someone to tell her how this could have happened to her son,” Higbee said.

[name withheld] had been charged with two counts of sexual assault against two girls between the ages of 13 and 16.

He was arrested and held at the county jail when he could not make bail.

The lawsuit alleges that on Sept. 14, 2011, Hahn came to [name withheld]'s cell, said, “Let’s go, [name withheld] ” and brought the prisoner to another cell where “he was viciously attacked by three or four other inmates” while “Hahn stood by and did nothing to stop the attack.”

The lawsuit claims [name withheld] was repeatedly beaten by other inmates without corrections officers’ intervention, and that he was denied immediate medical attention.

The lawsuit also references notes to [name withheld]'s family written by another county jail prisoner, Robert Gerst, claiming other inmates “beat him so bad that both his eyes were swelled shut, they stomped on his hands, held him down, and five to six people at a time beat the sh*t out of him.”

Gerst claimed guards told inmates they would get extra food trays for beating [name withheld].

I know the facts of this case are troubling,” Higbee said.

[name withheld], died from an accidental drug overdose last summer. He pleaded guilty to the sexual assault charges a month before his death, and faced up to five years in state prison for each count.

Gloucester County had not yet been served with the lawsuit by Thursday, Higbee added.

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