Correctional officers at the Monmouth County Correctional Institute knocked out a man’s teeth in prison while calling him homophobic slurs and making him wear pink overalls, alleges a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court on Thursday.
Kavan Costello, of Oakhurst, was 18 years old when he was arrested and taken to Freehold County Jail on February 17, 2020. His lawsuit also alleges that an unidentified correctional officer told him that if he signed a “plea agreement” his sentence would be reduced. after the attack while he was still in prison.
“It was a terrible, terrible experience for him,” said his lawyer Brooke Barnett. “I know he suffers from emotional stress and nightmares.”
The lawsuit was filed against at least five correctional officers identified only by their last name. The lawsuit named other defendants, including Acting Monmouth County Correctional Facility Guard Donald Sutton, the county and the prison medical officer.
A spokeswoman referred a comment to the Monmouth County Attorney’s Office, and a sheriff’s office spokeswoman said she would not comment on any pending litigation. The county attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Monmouth County Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment when asked whether they were investigating the allegations in the lawsuit or whether any of the officers were charged.
Costello was the passenger in the back seat of a vehicle when Ocean Township police arrested him and two other people on February 17. He was charged with the personal use of Xanax, a prescription sedative, and joint possession of a gun that was in the car, the suit, said.
In prison, the suit said the officers grabbed his neck area and pushed him into his seat while he waited for his overalls. The officials also used homophobic slurs against him to “instill fear and embarrassment” in Costello, the lawsuit said.
He was given a change of green overalls, the suit said, and then obeyed when he appeared to be doing a “usual check” of crouching and coughing while naked.
After he changed, the lawsuit alleges that four of the officers attacked Costello and knocked out a front tooth. He was ordered to take off his green overalls because he was soaked in blood, it said in the suit.
Officers then ordered him to put on pink jumpsuit and forcibly move him to another area while he was completely naked, Costello claims. They continued to make him homophobic and ordered him to bend down and cough again, despite the fact that there was no evidence that Costello was in possession of a gun or contraband, the lawsuit says.
“… Costello yelled for help because he thought the accused would sexually assault him,” the lawsuit said.
Officers pulled up Costello’s pink jumpsuit and beat him again, knocking out a second tooth, the suit said. He passed out and woke up with pepper spray, the suit said.
Costello was rushed to a dentist on site, but the lawsuit claims he was not examined or treated.
The acting jailer went to Costello the next day to find out what happened, the lawsuit said. He told the guard that he was physically attacked by the officers, but was unable to speak to and consult with his family because the code the guard gave him to call was invalid, the lawsuit said.
An unidentified officer later told Costello that he was being presented with a “declaration of consent” for the “disciplinary measures” taken against him, the lawsuit said.
He was asked to sign a document stating that the violence used against him was necessary to protect the officers, the lawsuit said. He was told that if he signed his sentence would be shortened and his term would be smoother, but he refused, the lawsuit said.
He was later taken to another area for a “disciplinary hearing” when three people were present. An unidentified officer again told him that if he signed the document, his sentence would be reduced. If he refused, he could face a sixty-day, 24-hour lockdown as a punishment, the lawsuit said.
He refused and was taken back to his cell. He was released on February 21, 2020.
The lawsuit said Costello went to a hospital in Monmouth County the next day. Costello has been diagnosed with a closed head injury, concussion, jaw and left shoulder pain, and tooth tearing, the lawsuit said.
Costello is suing for damages and legal fees.
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Rebecca Panico can be reached at [email protected]