Alan Prendergast Raped and extorted by a prison gang, Scott Howard was called a "drama queen" by corrections officials, Westword, February 2, 2011
Howard had filed a second lawsuit after his encounter with Shimbel on his last day in the DOC. A private law firm defended that case, and it produced many of the same documents the Colorado Attorney General's Office had handed over in the original case â€” with one glaring exception. A transfer form signed by Fremont case manager Dave Mason had surfaced in the second wave. The form states that one of the reasons Howard was being moved from Fremont to Sterling was because "other offenders" were pressuring him for money. Handwritten and circled on the form is a number: 211.
Weeks before that document was found, Mason had filed an affidavit in the case denying that Howard had ever told him about any threats or extortion. Other officers filed similar affidavits, insisting that nothing in Howard's file or their discussions with him pointed to a gang problem. Yet the form backed up Howard's account of his meeting with Mason and the reasons for his subsequent move to Sterling.
Howard remembers seeing the form for the first time last spring and realizing he was on the brink of vindication. "That was the healing point for me," he says now, "to find this document that shows I wasn't lying."
Lane was more furious than elated. In thirty years of practicing law, he insists, he's never seen a more serious violation of discovery rules. "In the entire world of documents, there was only one that we did not get â€” and it was the one that blew their case out of the water," he says. "I believe the attorney general's office intentionally hid this document. But no one's been held accountable for this."
In a court filing, the AG's office maintained that the omission was "inadvertent," the result of a copying glitch by a paralegal, who omitted several other less relevant pages when copying Howard's DOC file. "If Mr. Lane believes there was an ethical violation, he has an obligation to file a grievance," says AG spokesman Mike Saccone. "If he's still carping about this and hasn't done that, I think that speaks volumes."
Lane did push for an evidentiary hearing in the matter, but within a few weeks the parties quietly settled the case for $165,000. "I was disappointed in the amount," Lane says, "but Scott wanted to move on with his life."
Moving on has been difficult for Howard. While the lawsuit was under way, he was inundated with materials reminding him of the details of his assaults. He still suffers from post-traumatic stress. He has bad reactions to encounters with white guys with shaved heads, and for a time avoided contact with white people whenever he could.
"Some days are good, some days are bad," he says. "Part of my healing process was to forgive people. Am I mad at staff? Do I think they could have prevented it? Absolutely. There were times when I was so upset, I didn't know if I could go on with it. But I either had to let them get away with it or continue the fight."
DOC officials didn't respond to requests for comment on the Howard settlement or any policy changes it may have inspired. In 2007, 211 Crew founder Benjamin Davis, despite his insistence that he'd distanced himself from the gang, was convicted by a Denver jury on charges of racketeering, assault and conspiracy and had an additional 96 years tacked onto his sentence. But the 211 Crew and other gangs continue to be active in Colorado prisons â€” even if many of their activities are, as the man says, "resolved by the inmates themselves."
Howard now works as a production manager for a company in the Midwest. He's been invited to speak at an upcoming gathering of the American Correctional Association as well as a national convention of sexual-assault response teams. After years of being afraid to speak out, his name and photo and battles are showing up in Just Detention International fundraising appeals and on the New York Review of Books blog.
"This has turned into my fight," he says. "I know a person at Fremont who's going through the same thing right now and is being ignored. I really didn't seek this, but I can be a voice for those who aren't being heard."
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