New Hampshire Prison Guards Awarded Nearly $2M

A New Hampshire jury awarded nearly $2 million to two prison guards who sued their co-workers at the state prison for misrepresenting their roles in a confrontation with an inmate that led to their firing in 2005.

The Merrimack County jury found Monday that Shawn Stone and Todd Connor “intentionally and improperly interfered” with the employment of Timothy Hallam and Joseph Laramie.

Hallam was awarded $1.3 million in compensatory damages; Laramie was awarded $650,000.

The men also named the state Department of Corrections and Commissioner William Wren as defendants in the civil suit, but a judge dismissed them, said Kevin Leonard, the attorney who represented Hallam and Laramie. The state represented Stone and Connor and is responsible for paying the damages.

Assistant Attorney General Richard Head said it was too early to know whether the state would appeal.

A state labor appeals board reinstated Hallam and Laramie and cleared them of wrongdoing in 2006 without hearing the prison’s case, saying the prison’s investigation was contradictory and questionable.

Leonard said yesterday’s verdict was “complete vindication” for the accused men.

“First they prevail at the Personnel Appeals Board, and now to have a jury of 14 Merrimack County residents agree with them — they’re both ecstatic,” Leonard said.

Laramie returned to his job but Leonard said Hallam was “medically unable” to return. Both Stone and Connor are still working at the state prison as guards, Leonard said.

Stone and Connor accused Laramie of assaulting an inmate in 2005 and said that Hallam failed to properly report the assault to his supervisors. Laramie and Hallam were fired three months later.

But the state appeals board found no evidence of an assault by Laramie, and said while Hallam’s report of the incident wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t bad enough to warrant immediate firing.

The Concord Monitor, citing court files, reported that the inmate actually accused Stone and Connor of punching him during the scuffle.

“The inmates had accused both of the defendants of assaulting him, and their claim was in turn for self-preservation,” Leonard said.

Shortly after his firing, Hallam said he thought the state prison was retaliating against him for failing to pin the blame on him for a 2003 prison break, in which three inmates escaped. The prison had reprimanded Hallam for not warning the warden of the planned escape, even though he’d been tipped about it the night before.

The appeals board concluded in 2005 that Hallam had satisfied prison policy by telling an investigator verbally of the escape plan.


Information from: Concord Monitor