Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Transsexual's case against warden can move forward

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A transsexual who was severely beaten by another inmate at the Warren Correctional Institution will get a chance to prove in court that prison officials put her life at risk.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Traci Greene's lawsuit against prison Warden Anthony Brigano should be allowed to proceed to a jury trial in federal court.

In a 2-1 decision, the appeals judges found that U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith erred when she ruled there was insufficient evidence to support Greene's claim that Brigano failed to protect her from an obvious danger.

Greene's attorney, Al Gerhardstein, said his client was a target of the prison's male inmates because she had undergone hormone treatments as part of a sex change and displayed female characteristics. Greene, who was in prison on charges of misuse of credit cards, was sent to a male prison because the sex change was incomplete.

Although the warden placed Greene in a protective custody unit, Gerhardstein said she shared that unit with dangerous inmates.

"They put her in protective custody next to a person who was very violent," Gerhardstein said. "The protective custody unit was not established to separate predators from prey effectively."

An inmate, Hiawatha Frezzell, was charged in 1996 with beating Greene with a mop handle and a 50-pound fire extinguisher. Frezzell had been placed in protective custody because he had participated in the Lucasville prison riot and later testified against some of his fellow inmates.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office, which may appeal Tuesday's ruling, argued that the danger to Greene was not clear and the warden did nothing wrong.

But according to the appeals court, the warden had acknowledged that he considered Frezzell a "predatory inmate."

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