Sadistic prison guard accused of torturing inmates
A sadistic prison officer who has cost New York State $877,637 in legal payouts over assault and sex harassment allegations is now under investigation over accusations he waterboarded two inmates and brutally beat them in their genitals.
Lt. Troy Mitchell, with the help of other guards, is accused of pouring buckets of water over the mouths and noses of two shackled inmates at the Auburn Correctional Facility in separate incidents.
He is also accused of grabbing and twisting their genitals and then punching and whacking their groins with a baton.
In one incident, on Sept. 14, 2016, Mitchell beat prisoner Matthew Raymond so savagely that he now needs a catheter to urinate, according to civil court documents filed by Raymond’s lawyer, Joan Magoolaghan, in Albany Supreme Court.
“Relentless in his attack, Lt. Mitchell then directed a corrections officer to spread Mr. Raymond’s legs apart, after which the lieutenant forcefully grabbed and twisted Mr. Raymond’s testicles and penis, and called him a ‘stupid little bitch,’” the filing says.
The inspector general’s office for the state Department of Correctional Services and Community Renewal previously looked into Raymond’s accusations but determined they were unfounded.
However, the office reopened its investigation when a second prisoner made an identical claim against Mitchell, who has been a prison officer since 1986.
Magoolaghan’s civil filing — which demands DOCCS hand over video footage and incident reports related the alleged assault — also notes that a third Auburn inmate made similar complaints against Mitchell before Sept. 14, 2016.
DOCCS said in a statement to the Daily News on Friday that it suspended Mitchell, 54, without pay on Aug. 31, 2017, as part of an ongoing investigation into the matter.
But Mitchell was accused of barbaric behavior long before his suspension — and not just by prisoners.
Penny Collins, a female corrections officer at Auburn, received a $787,837 judgment against DOCCS plus $150,000 in backpay in 2012, five years after filing a lawsuit accusing Mitchell and other officers of sexually harassing her.
The worst of the worst, she said, was Mitchell.
She accused him of repeated verbal abuse and bullying, including describing his excrements to her, boasting how he once told his mother she had “nice t-ts” and noting that a wedding ring Collins wore looked like one his wife owned that “got lost in his ass.” She also said he liked to discuss the size of inmates’ penises.
“This is one of the sickest people I’ve ever met in my entire life,” Collins, 56, told the Daily News last week.
She said she was so concerned about Mitchell’s history of abuse to co-workers and inmates that she wrote a Nov. 17, 2006, letter to a senior investigator at DOCCS' inspector general's office, warning him that incidents were going unreported. At the time, Mitchell had just been promoted to lieutenant.
“Someone must look into Lt. Mitchell and his actions as an employee,” she wrote. “With this promotion, he now has a substantial amount of authority and I fear for the people he turns his abuse on.”
Collins said an investigator interviewed her one time after she sent the letter. She said she never heard from anyone after that.
“If they would have taken it seriously 12 years ago, none of this would be an issue now,” she said.
Even before her accusations, Mitchell, and other officers at the facility, were under scrutiny.
The U.S. Department of Justice investigated Auburn Correctional Facility over allegations of excessive force in 2005.
The federal investigators ended their probe in 2007 when the five-year statute of limitations on the alleged misconduct expired.
However, the probe ran parallel to lawsuits filed by prisoners, including two that accused Mitchell of playing a role in beatdowns.
In one case, Dino Caroselli — who is serving a life sentence for a botched robbery in Brooklyn that led to a shootout with police officers — received a settlement of $70,000 in 2008. He accused Mitchell and other officers of breaking both of his hands, ankle, nose and tooth during a 2002 assault.
In the other lawsuit, Richie Thomas, who was serving a life sentence for burglary, received a $19,800 payout in 2008 after accusing officers of assaulting him while he was handcuffed to a utility room in 2002. Mitchell was named as a defendant but it is unclear what his role was in the alleged attack.
Mitchell has denied the allegations by Collins, Caroselli and Thomas. He couldn’t be reached for comment regarding the latest allegations.
DOCCS said in a statement to the News that under the current contract with the prison officers union, it is limited in its ability to discipline correction officers. However, it said it is working to bolster its power to remove bad actors through a new security contract with the union.
“This department has zero tolerance for any behavior that jeopardizes the safety and security of our facilities and the individuals who live and work there,” the agency said.
“All allegations of abuse are thoroughly investigated by our revamped Office of Special Investigations and those found to be at fault face the toughest discipline allowable under the collective bargaining agreement.”
After years of criticism, the Cuomo administration has boosted the prison system’s Office of Special Investigations. The entire unit was reorganized and is now headed by two attorneys with prosecutorial experience.
Still, prisoner advocates contend confirmed cases of officer abuse rarely end with criminal charges.
Prison officials also point out that the state launched a $15 million capital project in September 2016 to install more security cameras in Auburn. As for the alleged waterboarding, DOCCS could not say when investigators would finish their probe of Mitchell, who earned an annual salary of $97,478 a year before his suspension.
Raymond, who had a traumatic brain injury before he went to prison and suffers seizures, says Mitchell attacked him after he was taken to a local hospital in Auburn for medical care.
The 29-year-old inmate started serving a four-to-eight-year sentence in prison in 2015 for a burglary conviction in Chautauqua County.
On Sept. 14, 2016, Raymond suffered a seizure and was transferred to the hospital in handcuffs and a belly chain.
Officers later accused him of being disruptive at the hospital, even though medical records show he was shackled the whole time and in a confused and disoriented state, his lawyer’s filing says.
Despite needing medical care, Raymond was quickly discharged after seeing a nurse practitioner and returned to the correctional facility. However, on the trip home, he suffered another seizure and vomited on himself.
At the prison, he was taken to a small room in a medical unit, where Mitchell and five other officers attacked him while he was shackled, the legal filing says.
The assault began with waterboarding and was followed by Mitchell striking Raymond in the face, neck and chest, the filings says.
The attack continued — even when another officer interceded to say Raymond had a seizure, according to the filing.
When Raymond tried to close his legs, Mitchell punched his groin and repeatedly struck him in the area with a baton, the court papers say.
After the alleged attack, Raymond received no medical attention, even though he reported blood in his urine.
“It was not until January 2017, after his ability to urinate ceased and he fainted from toxicity that he was finally taken to the Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse,” the filing says.
His medical providers concluded that his injuries were the result of blunt-force trauma to his genitals. Collins said she was saddened but not surprised that DOCCS continued to employ Mitchell after she got her settlement in 2012.
Before her lawsuit, she filed a complaint in 2006. Collins said she eventually quit her job and became a family and marriage therapist. She also moved to Tennessee — partly to be away from her former co-workers.
“I’ve never been sorry that I filed this lawsuit,” she said. “I am only sorry that the state kept him employed. I knew that other people were going to be hurt. And I’m sorry for those inmates. I’m sorry for the officers. I am sorry for everyone who has to be around that man.”