Federal judge threatens to dismiss 2 claims from Boston Marathon bomber in prison discrimination lawsuit
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s legal battle with the FBOP continues.
A federal magistrate judge has issued a court order directing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, currently serving a life sentence for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, to file an amended prisoner complaint within 30 days. If he doesn’t, Judge Gordon P. Gallagher said, two of his seven claims in a federal lawsuit will be thrown out. Some of Tsarnaev’s other claims were previously subject to similar court orders, with all of them being amended within the 30-day time frame.
Tsarnaev is held at the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado, otherwise known as ADX Florence. A prison spokesperson said that “unique security management requirements” caused Tsarnaev to be housed at the prison instead of USP Terre Haute, where male death-row prisoners are usually held.
The facility houses 359 prisoners who are “most capable of extreme, sustained violence toward staff or other inmates,” including ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynski, former CIA officer Harold Nicholson, who provided classified information to Russia, and Jessie Con-Ui, a life inmate who killed a federal prison guard in Pennsylvania.
“Plaintiff’s fifth and sixth claims, asserted pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, are deficient,” Judge Gallagher wrote in a May 6 court order. “Although Plaintiff asserts these claims pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, prisoners’ claims based on deprivation of property are properly analyzed as due process claims.” The claims Gallagher mentions are allegations that prison officials placed an administrative hold on Tsarnaev’s commissary account and confiscated his property.
Tsarnaev filed a handwritten lawsuit from his cell in a maximum-security prison in January against several parties including ADX Florence, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP), and Attorney General Merrick Garland. Also accused in the complaint is FBOP director Michael Carvajal, ADX Florence Unit Manager Aimee Tuttolimondo, Warden B. True, and around 20 John Does.
Tsarnaev alleges that the BOP “enabled” Tuttolimondo, ADX Florence’s Warden B. True, and the Unit Team to discriminate against him through the confiscation of his personal property and the denial of showers.
“The BOP has enabled the Unit Manager, A. Tuttolimondo, to discriminate against me,” Tsarnaev wrote. A correctional officer confiscated two of Tsarnaev’s clothing items, a white baseball cap and a bandana he wore for 4 years, as he was being escorted back to his cell from the recreation yard.
“I was later informed by the Unit Manager that she confiscated my hat because by wearing it, I was ‘disrespecting the FBI and the victims in [my] case’ …” Tsarnaev wrote. “There is no proof and no evidence to support her false accusation. This incident has caused me a great deal of mental stress and anxiety.”
It’s unclear as to what Tuttolimondo was referring to when she asserted that Tsarnaev was “disrespecting the FBI and the victims”, however, she could be speaking of Tsarnaev’s “White Hat” nickname, given to him as federal investigators zeroed in on him as a prime suspect in the bombings. He wore a white Polo cap as he accompanied his brother, Tamerlan, to Boylston Street and planted a homemade pressure cooker bomb as marathon runners passed the finish line.
Tsarnaev added that the FBOP denied his advancement to Phase 2, which allows daily showers, because of his “demeanor.”
“Ultimately, I was told by a staff member, that the Warden wanted me to smile at him and be courteous when he makes his daily rounds,” he wrote. “It was evident then, that the criteria for me was different. I’m being held to a different standard.”
Tsarnaev’s additional complaints, 1–4 and 7, allege that Garland and 20 John Does, presumably prison officials, restricted his outgoing correspondence and communication with his family, subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment, and violated his right to due process. Judge Gallagher found all of Tsarnaev’s claims, barring 5 and 6, to be filed correctly.
On the last page of his complaint, Tsarnaev requested a court order that the FBOP shield him from “abuses, false accusations, and discrimination” as well as $250,000 in monetary damages.
“[This is] an amount sufficient to make prison officials ensure that this abuse never happens again,” he wrote. “I am also asking for the court to appoint legal counsel and to cover all costs and legal fees.” Court records show Tsarnaev paid a filing fee of $402.00 in February following a minute order by Judge Gallagher.
In March, the Supreme Court ruled that it would consider reinstating Tsarnaev’s death sentence following an order from a lower court of appeals finding that he should be given a new penalty-phase trial due to improperly screened jurors. The ruling was promptly appealed by the Trump Justice Department, which argued in court filings that the pressure cooker bombs Tsarnaev placed “caused devastating injuries that left the street with a ravaged, combat-zone look” which included “blood and body parts everywhere, littered among BBs, nails, metal scraps and glass fragments.”
Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in 2015 following a conviction on 30 criminal charges including four counts of murder.
Then-Attorney General William Barr said that he would advise the Department of Justice to “do whatever’s necessary” to ensure Tsarnaev faces the death penalty. Barr made waves last year after he scheduled the executions of 13 federal inmates, resuming a nearly 20-year hiatus of executions at the federal level. Trump’s four-year term became one of the most prolific execution periods of all time, second to only to Grover Cleveland in 1896.
SCOTUS will hear the appeal for reinstatement by June of next year. Regardless of the court’s decision, Tsarnaev will die in prison.
The 27-year-old Kyrgyzstan native has until June 5, 2021, to amend his 5th and 6th complaints. The FBOP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.