CELL MATES

by Julian Heicklen and Alexandria Brown

Bryan Stanton BX­5607 and William Saltsman ATÐ0153 are inmates at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Rockview. Mr. Stanton is 5' 7" tall and weighs 137 pounds. His nickname is "Cowboy," but the guards have been calling him "Cowgirl" to his face and over the intercom system from 1993­1997. Thus the rumor started that he is homosexual, and many of the inmates believe this. Mr. Stanton denies that he is homosexual. In six years he has never been caught in a homosexual act nor received a misconduct for one.

Mr. Saltsman is 31 years old and weighs 220 pounds. He is stocky and muscular. Saltsman is a lifer (serving a life sentence) and has served over 11 years as of July 1998. Mr. Saltsman is receiving psychiatric counseling. Even though Mr. Saltsman claims that his files and records support the idea that he should have a single cell, he has been denied one under the claim that he is neither dangerous nor a homosexual.

Mr. Saltsman sent an Inmate Request on October 2, 1997, to Dr. Reagan, a psychiatrist. It requested single cell status. Mr. Saltsman states that crazy stuff keeps going through his head. After a week or so with living with someone, he loathes and despises him. Because of juvenile fines that he had to pay, he robbed and killed someone. He does not think rationally under stress. He is asking for help. He wants single-cell status and therapy.

On March 7, 1998, Mr. Stanton was moved into Building D, level 3, cell #339 with William Saltsman. Mr. Saltsman sent out request slips to Superintendent Meyers, the block unit manager (Mr. Morningstar), and the block sergeant (CO Roan) stating: "You have just moved an inmate Bryan Stanton BX­5607 into my cell and he is a known homosexual. I would like to have him moved out of my cell as soon as possible. He is not safe in my cell. Due to his lifestyle, there cannot be any compatibility, nor tolerance!" Superintendent Meyers' response was that he had spoken to the Unit Manager, Mr. Morningstar, and to Mr. Harter, who is in charge of cell arrangements, and that they should take care of the problem. There is a witness who said that he and a couple of other inmates were outside Mr. Morningstar's office waiting to see him while Morningstar was arguing with Saltsman about getting Stanton moved out of his cell. Mr. Morningstar said to Mr. Saltsman: "Do what you gotta do!"

The institution did not move the two inmates, even after several warnings. The two cell mates did not talk to each other for 12 or 13 days, and then the following incident occurred.

On the night of March 19/20, 1998, at 12:00 AM, two guards made their nightly round. At 12:10/12:15 AM, inmate Saltsman seemed mad/stressed out about something and started pacing the cell floor. Without a spoken word, Saltsman punched Stanton in the right eye. Saltsman physically assaulted Stanton. Saltsman tied up Stanton, and cut the left side of his face with a razor blade. Saltsman made Stanton sit in the front of the cell. While Stanton was tied up, Saltsman repeatedly kicked Stanton in the lower back. Stanton lay in a pool of his own blood for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Finally, 1/2 hour late for his next round, a guard appeared. The guard almost walked past Stanton, and Mr. Stanton had to call out to the guard for help, at which time Saltsman kicked Stanton in the back again, right in front of the guard. The guard said "OK, OK, just calm down." The guard had his shirt tucked out and more than half unbuttoned, and he had no walkie-talkie to call for help. Because of this the guard had to leave to get help, and left Stanton with Saltsman again. Mr. Saltsman took advantage of the situation, and kicked Mr. Stanton in the back some more. Several guards came running two minutes later. The guards dragged Stanton out of the cell leaving a trail of blood.

According to Mr. Stanton, there is no sergeant at night, so perhaps that is why the guards are so unruly. Another inmate that asked not to be identified confirms that the guards are negligent in their rounds. He has heard inmates screaming and kicking their doors for hours trying to get the attention of the guards to help another inmate who is sick or hurt. The guards sit in a bubble, play the radio and gamble with card games. They have TV surveillance, so when they see a high officer approaching, they put away the radio, cards, and coffee maker and look busy. The guards are supposed to make rounds every hour, but only do so every 2 or 3 hours.

Mr. Stanton was taken to Centre Community Hospital, where he was X-rayed and stitched. Then he was returned to Rockview TBO (Treatment Building), where he stayed for 3-1/2 to 4 days. After hearing his story, Captain Tressler stated that he wanted to get this guy (Saltsman) for attempted murder and he wanted Mr. Stanton to testify. Mr. Stanton refused because he feared being known as a jail-house snitch.

The next day, Lt. Knoff of SCI Rockview and state police detective Mr. Sasserman came to see Mr. Stanton. Both Knoff and Sasserman took photos of Stanton's face and body, and asked if Stanton was ready to file a victim/witness report. Mr. Stanton was afraid at the time, because he did not want to be known as a jail snitch. The next day, Saturday, March 21, 1998, Sasserman and another lieutenant came to see Stanton, but he still would not agree to testify. Detective Sasserman said the he and Tressler were good friends, and that for a written statement, he might be able to get Mr. Stanton transferred closer to home, maybe SCI Pittsburgh.

On Sunday, March 22, 1998, Captain Tressler came back and said to Mr. Stanton that he heard that the incident was a setup for getting single cell status, transfers, and law suits, but Tressler found it hard to believe. Stanton denied the accusation. Mr. Sasserman has not returned, and so still to April 27, 1998, Stanton has not been able to file a report.

On Tuesday, March 24, 1998, Stanton was moved from the TBO treatment building D and placed in Administrative Custody (AC) status during the investigation. He asked for a phone call to call his family and let them know what happened to him while he was in TBO and AC, but he was refused.

On March 25, 1998, Captain Tressler spoke with Mr. Stanton. He again stated to Mr. Stanton about the rumors that the incident was a setup. Stanton again denied the rumor and told Captain Tressler that he wanted to file a complaint with the state police. Captain Tressler said that he would contact the state police. On March 26, 1998, Mr. Stanton was returned to general population.

Captain Tressler and Detective Sasserman tried to get Mr. Stanton to take a lie detector test. On August 10, they were prepared for the lie detector test, but Stanton refused, because he did not have an attorney and he was on medication. Mr. Stanton requested to file a victim report and charges against Mr. Saltsman, but Detective Sasserman said no. Detective Sasserman said that since Mr. Stanton would not cooperate by taking the lie-detector test, he was closing the case file. Mr. Stanton suggested that the lie detector teat be given to Saltsman and to the informant who reported that the incident was a setup to get single cell status. As of August 12, 1998, Stanton had not been able to file a victim report with the state police.

Because of the assault, Mr. Stanton has suffered terribly from what he claims is the lack of adequate care at SCI Rockview. He has a 5-inch scar on his face that required 52 stitches. He suffers from lower back pain and numbness in his right leg and right toe. He is seeing several people to get over this ordeal.

Since the assault, Mr. Stanton has been put on medication by a psychiatrist, Dr. Nabavi, and was seeing a back specialist named Dr. Periera, who was the Medical Director, but who no longer works at SCI Rockview. Dr. Periera, became really concerned after several examinations, different medications, etc. He ordered an MRI to be done, stating that he was afraid Mr. Stanton had a slipped disc pressing against a nerve in his spine. The Wexford Medical Regional Director refused the MRI. Wexford is the HMO in charge of medical care at SCI Rockview. Mr. Stanton filed an Inmate Grievance.

Mr. Saltsman ended up in an observation cell totally naked with no sheets, blankets, or clothes whatsoever and two Misconducts on record. Mr. Saltsman was told that he is responsible for the medical bill. According to Mr. Saltsman this goes against case law which states that the prison is not entitled to compensation for injuries committed by one prisoner to another. The medical costs are an obligation not a compensation since the state Department of Corrections is not a victim entitled to restitution of its expenditures on medical care for inmates killed or hurt by another inmate. Disregarding this and without issuing a bill, the prison has begun to take money out of Mr. Saltsman's account.

Heicklen contacted Detective Sasserman on February 9 and 10, 1999. Detective Sasserman discussed this matter with his supervisor, Sergeant Byron, and they have decided to forward the case to Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar for prosecution.