Former Inmate Sues Lewisburg U.S. Penitentiary Staff After Loss of Eye From Altercation

U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg

A former inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg is suing staff and Warden David J. Ebert for using excessive force that caused him to lose an eye.

In the civil suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on behalf of former inmate James Hunt, attorney Jennifer Tobin alleges that on Jan. 14, 2016, Lieut. Jason Seeba and three other correction officers deployed chemical weapons and a non-lethal stun grenade into a small cell in the Special Management Unit where he was being held with another prisoner for 23 hours a day.

Lewisburg prison spokesman Shawn Barlett said Monday he could not comment on pending litigation.

The suit claims that Seeba and the other officers gave no warning before launching the pepper ball, a projectile containing hot pepper powder, directly at Hunt’s face and into the back of his head and tossing a grenade that damaged his hearing.

Despite repeated requests from the inmates that Hunt was injured and suffering breathing problems due to asthma, the suit alleges, they were left in the cell unattended for about 20 minutes.

When Hunt was removed from the cell with blood oozing from his right eye, he alleges the officers put him in hard restraints for several hours before he was taken to Geisinger Medical Center for treatment.

In July, his right eye was removed, the suit said.

The lawsuit alleges that staff at the prison failed to follow the Bureau of Prisons policy which permits employees to use “only the amount of force necessary to gain control of an inmate, to protect and ensure the safety of inmates, staff or others, to prevent serious property damage and to ensure security and good order.”

Use of weapons such as the pepper ball gun and grenade must be approved by the warden, the suit said, explaining why Ebert is named in the action.

Seeba allegedly has a history of using excessive force on inmates, the suit claims, including involvement in a similar incident with a pepper gun ball in June 2012 that led to another inmate losing an eye.

Hunt is seeking punitive and compensatory damages alleging the plaintiffs committed negligence, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and cruel and unusual punishment.