and the county itself are being sued for the alleged assault against an
inmate that “was perpetrated with actual malice,” causing pain, suffering,
mental anguish and humiliation.
The lawsuit -- filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore -- names James L.
Henderson Jr., Somerset County and the Maryland Department of Public Safety
and Correctional Services as defendants.
The lawsuit was filed by Gary Cullen of Crisfield and seeks $5 million in
punitive and compensatory damages.
Among the allegations made in the lawsuit are that Henderson punched Cullen
in the stomach, slapped him in the face while he was shackled to a bench,
locked him in the detention center gym for 15 hours without food, water,
toilet or bed, threatened to hang him and hit him in the genitals.
Cullen, in the lawsuit, also alleges Henderson released him ahead of
schedule at night without his belongings, money or transportation, and
wearing only slippers, pants and a light shirt.
The lawsuit claims Cullen’s rights were violated under federal and Maryland
law, and it also charges Henderson, the county and the state with assault,
battery and negligence.
The county was served with a summons in the case and has forwarded it to the
Local Government Insurance Trust, said Kirk Simpkins, the county attorney.
As a county employee, Henderson will likely be defended by the insurance
company’s lawyers, too, Simpkins said.
Although Henderson resigned as warden in June 2007, he was re-hired by the
Somerset County Commissioners in February 2008 to head the county’s Animal
Control division and continues to work in that position.
The lawsuit follows a criminal investigation launched in 2007 after Cullen’s
father, John Cullen, reported an alleged assault on his son to Somerset
County State’s Attorney Kristy Hickman.
The case was turned over to Wicomico County State’s Attorney Davis Ruark
after Hickman said she had a conflict in the case.
In February 2007, the Wicomico Bureau of Investigation led a records raid of
the detention center in Westover, then later turned over the information to
Maryland State Police.
In addition to evidence of assaults on Cullen and other inmates, the probe
also allegedly found evidence of the improper use of work-release inmates by
Somerset County Sheriff Robert Jones, as well as former Princess Anne police
chief Russell Pecoraro.
While the investigation “uncovered some disturbing things,” Ruark said at
the time the case would be difficult to prove in court partly because of
credibility problems with former inmates who alleged they had been
To date, no criminal charges have ever been filed in the case.