BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) – An Orleans County pastor, who was convicted of molesting his grandchildren, will receive monetary damages for injuries sustained in Attica Correctional Facility. A trial will be scheduled for later this year to determine exactly how much he receives.
In April 2015, when Reverend Roy Harriger was sentenced to 15 years in prison for molesting his grandchildren, his own son George, a victim himself, was relieved. “I never thought he’d get caught, never.”
Now Roy Harriger has won a court judgment that NY State must pay him damages for something that happened in his first weeks as an inmate at Attica Correctional Facility. “What went down is Corrections Officers orchestrated a brutal unprovoked attack on Mr. Harriger, and they orchestrated a cover-up,” said Edward Sivin, Roy Harriger’s attorney.
In a 17-page ruling, NY State Court of Claims Judge Renee Forgensi Minarik finds a preponderance of evidence of assault and unwarranted use of excessive force at Attica Correctional and finds NY State to be solely responsible for Harriger’s injuries. The document spells out Harriger’s claim that just days after arriving at Attica, Officers deprived him of food, gave him threatening notes, a razor to cut his wrist and a sheet to hang himself, according to Sivin. They even suggested to him that he kill himself, and they provided him with the means to kill himself.”
Then one day in May 2015, he was called into a Sargent’s Office offered protective custody, and he accepted. But it appeared to him that the sergeant was angry. Harriger filled out the protective custody form, but then he says the escorting officer stood him up by the doorway and slammed his head against the wall and ordered him to hold his head there and remain standing. Minutes later he says he was lead to his cell block where according to Harriger, the Corrections Officer hit him twice at the base of his neck with a nightstick, and he fell unconscious.
He was later taken to Buffalo General Hospital, and has been confined to a wheelchair since that day with right side paralysis. He was then transferred to Wende Correctional Facility. The NY State Department of Corrections Office of Special Investigations spent a year investigating this and between 10 and 15 members were supposed to be interviewed about the assault. Not a single staff person agreed to be interviewed by the Sergeant and or the NY State Police, according to the court papers.
The Judge says she found Harriger’s testimony credible but goes on to say that what she found absolutely incredible was the fact that there was no investigation into the circumstances by the prison itself.
She goes on to say that the Department of Corrections, “an organization that requires the completion of paperwork on just about everything that occurs in the prison system, somehow neglected to file any paperwork related to this incident, including the form for protective custody.”
“I feel he shouldn’t get anything,” said his son George Harriger. “All his victims have suffered a whole lot more than he ever will. I think he’s faking this. I just don’t think he should get any money or anything.”
But News 4 also spoke with several other friends and family members, off camera, who don’t believe Roy Harriger even deserves to be in prison, and who saw his injuries at Buffalo General that day. Roy’s attorney also takes issue with George Harriger’s belief that his dad is faking the paralysis from whatever happened at Attica that day. “If there was any evidence that he was faking this, the State of New York who will end up paying damages in this case certainly would come forward with that evidence. There is no such evidence.”
George Harriger isn’t sure what to believe in this case. “Even if a guard did do it, or a prison inmate did it, it still doesn’t justify him getting paid for it. The victims deserve more than he ever did. They suffered their whole life.”
Sivin says it is likely that a trial on damages will take place later this year in Rochester to determine the amount of damages Harriger will receive.
The following is the response that News 4 received from the NY State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in regard to this matter:
Statement from DOCCS spokesperson Thomas Mailey:
While we cannot comment about ongoing litigation, the Department has zero tolerance for any individual working in our facilities who does not follow safety protocols or worse, commits a criminal act against a co-worker or an incarcerated individual. Anyone found to have committed a crime inside a DOCCS’ facility will be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
DOCCS thoroughly and aggressively investigates all cases and complaints through its Office of Special Investigations (OSI) These investigations include interviews with the incarcerated individuals or staff person filing the grievance, other individuals, Correction Officers, supervisors, medical staff, any volunteer, visitor or contractor that may be a potential witness, and when appropriate OSI will include witnesses from past events involving the incarcerated Individual and/or CO. Additionally, these investigations include review of video, phone, photographs, medical records, documentary evidence, cell searches, surveillance, and other physical evidence.
- With regards to OSI itself, it is uniquely qualified to handle these investigations. In recent years, DOCCS underwent a complete reorganization of its internal investigations unit, a major part of which was a hiring a new leadership team. Two well-regarded attorneys, both with extensive prosecutorial experience were put in charge of OSI. DOCCS has also expanded OSI by hiring outside investigators, moving supervisory positions from the union to appointed management-confidential positions, and partnering with outside agencies.
Under the Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the Department has implemented a number of other changes to avert staff misconduct and quickly react when any misbehavior does occur. These changes include:
- Hired additional attorneys in our Bureau of Labor Relations for the presentation of disciplinary cases and improve the coordination with our Counsels office
- Developed and implemented new training for newly hired civilian staff and increased the frequency of several trainings; updated Boundaries training, which deals with employee and incarcerated individual interactions and is offered to staff annually.
- Installed approximately 1,000 fixed cameras at Attica and have nearly completed a camera project at Clinton; the Department plans to expand fixed cameras to all maximum-security facilities.
- Deployed body cameras at Clinton, Bedford Hills, Great Meadow, Albion, Taconic, Fishkill, with Green Haven scheduled to be on-line by July 1.
- Additionally, DOCCS was awarded an $835,000 matching funds federal grant for the purchase, maintenance, and staffing costs to implement Body Worn Camera programs, by the Bureau of Justice Assistance.
- Additional training for security staff in appropriate use of force and de-escalation
- Implemented new protocols statewide for all staff who work correctional facilities, including more scheduled metal detector searches and the issuance of clear bags that are provided to staff and are required to transport their personal items in and out of the facilities, and established a list of allowable items that staff may carry into a facility.
- Updated security protocols dealing with the assignment and search of living quarters and cell integrity checks.
- The Department has instituted unannounced facility staff compliance inspections conducted by DOCCS OSI and OSIG.
- Implementing a department-wide grievance tracking system for any inmate complaint involving alleged employee misconduct.
There were also changes in the latest NYSCOPBA collective bargaining agreement involving the disciplinary process as it pertains to allegations of excessive use of force, inappropriate sexual relationships and distribution or possessing drugs or other dangerous contraband to incarcerated individuals or parolees. The changes in the contract will further aid us in our ability to deal with serious misconduct and protect the hard-working men and women who work for me as well as those incarcerated.