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Connecticut prison guards charged with assaulting incarcerated man

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Connecticut State Police have concluded excessive force was used in the assault of a Garner inmate by three corrections officers.

Three corrections officers are facing criminal charges for allegedly assaulting an incarcerated person at Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown.

According to court documents, camera footage from the facility shows prison guards Anthony Marlak and Joshua Johnson allegedly punching an incarcerated person who they said threatened them and refused to go back to his cell on the evening of Sept. 25.

A third officer, Patrick McGoldrick, is accused of kicking the prisoner while he was already on the floor.

The man appeared to have bruises and swelling on the right side of his face soon after the incident, according to an affidavit filed in court by state police.

Investigators concluded the three corrections officers used excessive force. They were charged with third degree assault, a misdemeanor. All three pleaded not guilty in court in November.

They were placed on administrative leave with pay two days after the incident, on Sept. 27, according to the Department of Correction.

Marlak told police the incarcerated person was making verbal threats against another prison guard, according to court documents. When Marlak ordered the man to go back to his cell, the man refused, the documents state.

Marlak told police the alleged victim is designated a high-security inmate. He said he felt threatened because the man has a history of aggressive behavior, and because the man would not comply with his commands, and looked like he was preparing to throw a punch, court records indicate.

Camera footage from inside the facility shows Marlak approached and started speaking with the incarcerated man, according to court documents. The man raised one arm, as if gesturing in that direction, and then pointed over Marlak’s shoulder, the documents state.

Marlak is then seen pushing the incarcerated man into a doorway and striking him, according to a state police affidavit.

"Marlak can be seen delivering several punches to (the victim's) head with both hands at close proximity, and also what appears to be knee strikes to (the victim's) torso," the affidavit states.

The video also shows Johnson punching the man multiple times, according to court records. Johnson's attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Marlak’s attorney, Gregory T. Nolan, declined an interview, but said in a written statement: "I believe that a society where law enforcement officers are prosecuted for their justified actions taken to defend society is a doomed society."

McGoldrick’s attorney said his client denies kicking the man in the head. According to court documents, in an incident report, McGoldrick said he placed his foot near the victim's head out of concern for the victim's safety.

"McGoldrick stated that he observed a potential of positional asphyxiation, due to larger officers in the area of (the victim's) head, neck, and shoulder area, to which, McGoldrick tried to tell the officers to be careful," the court documents state. "McGoldrick states that due to the noise levels, the staff did not respond to his suggestions. Therefore, McGoldrick states he placed his left foot between both of the officers and (the victim's) head and neck area as a visual cue to be cognizant of their position."

All three officers were released on bond.

Marlak, 42, of Watertown, is due to appear in court next on Dec. 21. McGoldrick, 40, of Brookfield, faces his next court date on Dec. 22. Johnson, 30, of North Haven, is scheduled to appear Jan. 5, 2024.

Ashad Hajela is CT Public's Tow Fellow for Race, Youth and Justice with Connecticut Public's Accountability Project. He can be reached at ahajela@ctpublic.org.

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