Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
For more information about Jo, check out her Linked-in profile, as well as her Facebook fan page, Instagram and Google+
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Bristol man sues Bucks prison over guard's alleged sexual harassment
Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2015
A former Bucks County inmate claims that county officials failed to protect him from a now suspended prison guard awaiting trial for allegedly sexually harassing him and other inmates two years ago.
Christopher Brossman, 29, of Bristol, last month filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia against Bucks County prison, the Department of Corrections and its director, William Plantier, the county, and suspended guard Joseph Mullen.
In court papers, Brossman contends the county and its corrections department failed to adequately supervise and train its corrections officers. He is seeking damages in excess of $75,000.
Bucks County spokesman Christopher Edwards declined comment on the suit citing it as a pending legal matter.
In January, Mullen was charged with misdemeanor official oppression and harassment for allegedly harassing 10 inmates, including Brossman. Bucks County detectives and a Bucks County grand jury investigated the allegations. One of the accusations is that Mullen gave inmates “certain privileges” if they performed degrading tasks like exposing their genitals to him, authorities said.
Brossman was serving an 11- to 23-month county jail sentence for robbing a man in Bristol when in April 2013 he was assigned to D-Block, where Mullen, 29, of Lower Southampton, worked as a guard.
But rather than protecting the inmates, Brossman alleges in his suit, Mullen sexually harassed him on numerous occasions including approaching him in the bathroom and asking to “see his package” and what he “was working with,” both references to his genitals. Mullen is also accused of similar inappropriate behavior with other inmates, authorities said.
Brossman also alleges that Mullen attempted to strip search him in his cell without other correctional officers around, which is against prison policy. Brossman refused and was placed in solitary confinement for five days at Mullen’s request, the suit alleges.
After refusing the strip search, Mullen searched Brossman’s cell — an action that is not allowed as a punishment — and confiscated family photos and gave him a misconduct slip, according to grand jury documents. Mullen confiscated the photos on the grounds that Brossman had more than 10, which is against the rules.
The prison later returned all of the photographs to Brossman after he had completed his time in the restricted housing unit as a sanction for possessing the extra photos, according to grand jury documents.
Brossman never filed a grievance or complaint against Mullen for his actions because he did not want to be a “rat” and he was concerned that there would be “repercussions” if he did, according to his grand jury testimony.
In 2014, after Bucks County detectives asked Brossman about Mullen’s behavior, other corrections officers began harassing the inmate, calling him a “snitch” and saying he was “making up lies,” according to the lawsuit.
Earlier this month Mullen was held for trial in Bucks County Court. He is free on $75,000 unsecured bail, but remains suspended without pay from his job at the prison, where he has worked since 2010.