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Kansas pays $10,000 to settle lawsuit filed by a prison inmate stabbed by white supremacists

El_Dorado_prison_sign.jpg
Kansas News Service
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El Dorado Correctional Facility in Butler County, Kansas.

Michael Rogers was hospitalized after being violently attacked by members of the Aryan Brotherhood in retaliation for cooperating with prosecutors. His lawsuit accused the Kansas Department of Corrections of placing him in the general population at El Dorado Correctional Facility despite known threats to his safety.

State legislators and the governor approved a $10,000 settlement of a lawsuit filed by a former Kansas prison inmate stabbed repeatedly by white supremacists when placed in the general population at El Dorado Correctional Facility despite known threats to his safety.

Gov. Laura Kelly and leaders of the House and Senate who comprise the State Finance Council voted unanimously to settle with Michael Rogers. He filed a federal lawsuit alleging his civil rights were violated by employees of the Kansas Department of Corrections. Rogers was violently attacked more than three years ago by members of the Aryan Brotherhood in retaliation for cooperating with prosecutors in Florida.

His suit sought to hold several people, including El Dorado prison unit team manager Richard English, responsible for placing him in the prison’s general population where inmates assaulted him in the laundry facility. In 2019, Rogers was stabbed by “validated” white supremacists in the back, head, arm, leg and chest with a weapon shaped like an ice pick. He was hospitalized four days with a collapsed lung and punctured kidney.

Rogers was subsequently transferred to Saguaro Correctional Facility in Arizona, court records say.

‘Officials knew’

Attorneys representing the Department of Corrections who sought to throw out the lawsuit in U.S. District Court argued Rogers agreed to placement in the general population at El Dorado. However, Rogers claimed in court documents to have sought a transfer to avoid being in the general population at El Dorado.

Three federal judges found merit to claims by Rogers that his constitutional right to reasonable protection from attacks by other inmates was violated.

In 2021, a judge declared English was aware of evidence indicating a risk to Rogers’ safety if placed in a housing situation with Aryan Brotherhood gang members.

“Given those facts,” the judge said, “a jury could conclude that officials knew of the presence of members of the white supremacy/Aryan Brotherhood security threat group in general population at EDCF, chose to keep Rogers in general population despite the risk to his safety in the presence of those inmates and allowed Rogers to be housed in and travel to an area of EDCF where he risked encounters with members of that threat group.”

In 2017, Rogers had been transferred from Florida to Kansas due to concern for his safety after he testified against individuals in gang and drug cases. Rogers was in the general population at Hutchinson Correctional Facility when another inmate from Florida spread information to gangs within the prison system — including the Aryan Brotherhood and the Crips — about Rogers’ cooperation with Florida prosecutors.

Rogers reported the threat to Department of Corrections officials and was transferred from Hutchinson to El Dorado. Within two days, he suffered “significant injuries” when attacked by two inmates thought to be affiliated with the Aryan Brotherhood. He was moved to Norton Correction Facility, but returned to El Dorado in 2018.

In the El Dorado prison, Rogers resided in an experimental unit housing inmates in need of extra security until it was disbanded in 2019. El Dorado prison officials contend they offered Rogers the option of moving to the general population or into protective custody, and that Rogers chose the general population.

Rogers disputed that version of events and claimed he submitted a request to English to be transferred to another prison facility. He was stabbed July 11, 2019. He filed the federal lawsuit about one month later naming as defendants English; Sam Cline, who was El Dorado’s warden at that time; and Department of Corrections special agent Brett Sissell. Cline and Sissell were eventually dismissed from the suit.

Qualified immunity

During court proceedings, the Department of Corrections sought to prevent “confidential security and investigative documents” from being shared with Rogers. The request covered reports of inmate attacks on Rogers.

Attorneys for the corrections department requested, but failed to be granted, summary judgment against Rogers based on the “qualified immunity” defense.

U.S. Chief District Judge Julie Robinson found English wasn’t entitled to qualified immunity. Robinson said issues of fact existed as to whether Rogers was offered and declined placement in protective custody.

She pointed to U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Marten’s order chronicling “both circumstantial evidence that the risk to plaintiff should have been obvious to EDCF officials and direct evidence that they knew of specific threats to plaintiff made by members of the Aryan Brotherhood.”

The settlement was approved 9-0 by the State Finance Council during a December meeting at the Capitol, but the settlement amount wasn’t disclosed to the public until January by the Kansas Department of Administration.

This story was originally published on the Kansas Reflector.

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.
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