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$8 million settlement announced in Attica prison lawsuit

The 1971 uprising at Attica prison was the deadliest prison riot in U.S. history  

January 4, 2000
Web posted at: 5:51 p.m. EST (2251 GMT)

In this story:

No admission of wrongdoing

Hearing on how to divide $8 million


ROCHESTER, New York (CNN) -- An $8 million settlement was announced Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by inmates who claim they were beaten and tortured by correctional officers at New York's Attica prison in 1971 during the deadliest prison uprising in U.S. history.

"It's been a long journey," former inmate David Brosig said. "I was a boy when it started. I'm graying now. I'm tired. This puts it to rest once and for all. All sides are to blame. It's time to put it behind us and move on."

It took a quarter of a century to resolve the class-action lawsuit filed in 1974 by the 1,281 inmates who were in D Yard of the maximum security facility near Buffalo, New York, after the uprising.

"I am happy that the case is being resolved," said Daniel Meyers, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys. "It's kind of bittersweet, because the delay in arriving at this resolution has met with deaths of a large number of plaintiffs. We felt this settlement was the best that we could do. We want the surviving plaintiffs to get something."

Prisoners seized control of the Attica Correctional Facility in western New York state on September 9, 1971, taking several hostages. Negotiations failed, and then Gov. Nelson Rockefeller ordered state troopers to retake D Yard.

The four-day siege, which cost the lives of 11 prison guards and 32 inmates, ended with state troopers storming the prison on September 13, 1971.

Eighty more people were wounded, and the response became a symbol of excessive use of government force.

"Money can't pay for the things they took human beings through -- the inhumane treatment, the lies that they told on us -- a lot of things that are still with us," James Knox, a former inmate and plaintiff, said.

No admission of wrongdoing

Because it is a settlement, the defendants are not required to admit any wrongdoing or liability.

"We've been agreeable because it is the beginning of the end of litigation that's been going on for 25 years," Deputy New York State Attorney General Richard Rifkin said.

Defendants in the lawsuit included the state of New York, Vincent Mancusi, who was superintendent of Attica in 1971; Karl Pfeil, who was the assistant deputy superintendent of Attica in 1971, the estate of Russell G. Oswald, then- commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services; and the estate of John Monahan, who as commander of the State Police in Batavia, New York, played a key role in retaking the prison.

Hearing on how to divide $8 million

U.S. District Judge Michael Telesca laid out terms of the settlement, which includes an $8 million settlement payment and an additional $4 million for attorneys fees and costs.

The judge ordered all parties to return to court February 14 to determine how the money would be divided, a process that could take months. Advertisements will be placed twice in newspapers around the state before the next hearing to notify former inmates of the settlement.

Reuters contributed to this report.

For more US news, will bring you news from the areas and subjects you select.

WNY Regional Information Network. Attica Correctional Facility. Wyoming County
NYS Dept. of Correctional Services Homepage
The Attica Rebellion
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