Correctional officer says other officer paid inmate to attack her

By Kyla Asbury | Feb 6, 2015

CLARKSBURG – A correctional officer is suing the U.S. Department of Justice-Federal Bureau of Prisons after she claims she was attacked by an inmate who was allegedly paid off by another correctional officer.

Warden Terry O'Brien, Associate Warden William Odom and Officer Richard Thomas were also named as defendants in the suit.

Melissa A. Wilson was employed as a correctional officer by the DOJ and  worked at its facility, U.S. Penitentiary-Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, according to a complaint filed Feb. 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.

Wilson claims she also served as president of the Employee's Club and several officers volunteered their person time to have a car wash to raise funds to assist a fellow officer with terminal cancer. The money raised at the car wash was given directly to the officer and no funds were taken from the Employee's Club account.

Shortly after the fund raising event, Thomas approached Wilson and demanded money from the Employee's Club to help support his family because he believed the Employee's Club should be supporting him and his family, according to the suit.

Wilson claims Thomas began a year-long harassment campaign against her, which included regular telephone calls, e-mails and verbal confrontations.

On three different occasions, Thomas sought a peace order against Wilson and other officers, all of which were denied, with the judge commenting that Thomas could not control himself, according to the suit.

Wilson claims Thomas forced audits of the Employee's Club books on at least four occasions and told inmates that he would do "whatever it took to take Wilson out."

In August 2012, Thomas verbally attacked Wilson in front of inmates, compromising her safety, according to the suit.

Wilson claims she requested a threat assessment be performed by the executive staff on Aug. 7, 2012, which began on Aug. 13, 2012, and took approximately eight months to complete.

Wilson was told Thomas would not be permitted to work inside the prison walls with inmates until the threat assessment was completed and requested to be notified if and when Thomas was permitted to go back inside with the inmates, according to the suit.

Wilson claims on Feb. 27, 2013, she questioned Odom why Thomas was permitted back inside before the threat assessment was completed. She claims Odom advised her that she and Thomas would just have to be nice to each other.

Wilson claims she informed Odom that she was fearful to go back inside with the inmates since Thomas had been working inside with the inmates and potentially could have instigated an inmate attach on her.

On March 1, 2013, Wilson met with the unit manager, expressing her concern about Thomas working back inside with the inmates and requested a copy of the threat assessment, according to the suit.

Wilson claims on March 4, 2013, Odom gave her a fake threat assessment and told her to do her job and he did not want to hear another work about the assessment.

O'Brien advised her that if she had safety concerns about a potential inmate attack provoked by Thomas, she should "get out of the institution," according to the suit.

On May 14, 2013, Shelton Harris, an inmate, physically attached Wilson, punching her eleven times in the temple, face, neck and shoulder. Upon information and belief, Harris was paid to take her out and was supposed to kill her.

Wilson is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. She is being represented by Kimberly A. Fitzwater and Amanda Mattingly.

The case is being represented by District Judge Irene M. Keeley.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia case number: 1:15-cv-00018

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