Ex-inmate's suit moved to federal court

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WALLA WALLA -- A civil lawsuit filed by a former Washington State Penitentiary inmate who was brutally assaulted by another prisoner at the institution will be adjudicated in federal court in Spokane.

The plaintiff, Oscar Iverson, initially filed the suit against the state in Walla Walla County Superior Court in May.

But the state Attorney General's Office has filed notice of removal of the case to federal court in Spokane because Iverson claims his U.S. constitutional rights were violated.

Iverson reportedly suffered life-threatening injuries April 30, 2008, when he was stabbed several times by inmate Nicholas A. Swecker in a gym at the prison's West Complex. Swecker was armed with a five-inch glass shank, according to the suit.

Iverson underwent surgery at Providence St. Mary Medical Center, where he was hospitalized for two days.

Iverson, who now lives in Spokane County, claims prison officials were negligent and violated his federal rights by not protecting him from harm. He is asking for an unspecified amount of money from the state, penitentiary Superintendent Stephen Sinclair and five other prison employees.

Iverson's lawsuit contends that at the time he was assaulted, he and other medium-security inmates had to share space and recreation time with close-custody inmates, such as Swecker, while facilities were under construction.

Iverson alleges that the institution had been put on notice that mixing the two populations would increase the risk of assault.

In addition, he claims officials were tardy in lowering his custody classification to minimum security, which if done in a timely manner would have placed him in another area of the prison before the date he was assaulted.

Swecker, whose earliest possible release date was 2040, pleaded guilty the following year to third-degree assault for attacking Iverson. Another five years then were tacked onto Swecker's prison term.

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