Witnesses’ Statements about Victor’s Torture and Death

Jeff Cookson, 11-19-09

Today, Nov 19, 09, I watched an inmate who is very sick with kidney failure being abused and taken to solitary confinement. He is elderly, his dialysis tubes were ripped out and he bled all over the place. He needs someone to come to the prison asap to check his injuries before he dies like an inmate a few months ago. Don’t let anyone who may check on this elderly man take no for an answer.

Jeff Cookson 11-28-09

Victor Valdez died Friday night 11-27-09 from the abuse he suffered. There are 15-20 inmates who would like to be Victor’s voice and tell about the abuse we witnessed in the pod, E-pod, close unit. I knew they were gonna kill that man like I expressed in my letter to you. I pray that someone from the AG’s office and the newspaper will interview us soon. I also pray that someone from the medical examiner’s office will really look over the body of Victor Valdez. I believe it will show physical abuse that contributed to his death. God bless.

Larry Parks 12-9-09

Victor never bothered anyone and was liked by all the inmates who knew him because he minded his own business and was respectful. Ever since he came here numerous staff members kept provoking him because they didn’t like having to come and get him three times a week at 5:30 in the morning for his kidney dialysis treatment. Many times I heard the guards harassing Victor and telling him to “hurry up” or “you had enough time.” There were numerous times that the guards didn’t want to deal with him so they took him to segregation. On Nov 19, 2009, Officer ___ and Officer ___ physically abused Victor and I could hear him screaming in pain for whatever they were doing to him.

Luis Pabon 12-13-09

If it wasn’t for all the stress that the administration put Victor Valdez through he would be alive today.

Like when they used to come to get him in the mornings, as soon as they left the unit they began pushing him. He could not walk fast. One time when he came back from Dialysis, he told me that he couldn’t take it anymore. He was almost in tears.

Sometimes they made him sign a paper like “refuse treatment.” He didn’t want to sign it so they grabbed him by the back of his neck and they slammed his face against the table. Finally he signed it because he was scared. This guy only weighed around 145 pounds.

He was looking forward to getting out of prison. I understand that this place got a job to do, but in this case you got to go to dialysis three times a week so they knew that this guy was not in good health. Somebody told me that the last time they saw him he was in handcuffs and he had bruises in his face.

Al Saunders 11-11-10

I just wanted to restate a fact that I know of first hand about Victor Valdez. When I was being interviewed by the state police I told them this fact also.

Victor did want to live. He was going to join our Veteran’s Group and I was going to try to get him reinstated on the kidney donor list. He was a Veteran from the Dominican Republic. The MSP Veteran’s Group is open to all veterans from all our Allies. He definitely wanted to live and never would have refused a treatment. Sincerely and respectfully.

Joel Olavaria Rivera (translated from Spanish) 11-13-10

I saw what happened to Victor Valdez when he was brought into the SMU by the officers. The officers threw Victor down, used pepper spray and caused great duress. After the fall, the officers put him in the SMU cell. I could smell the pepper spray from where I was because it was very strong. Then Victor hit the ground and stayed with all that stink of pepper spray. After 10 minutes they called a code blue. Doctors came running and Victor was foaming at the mouth. They left the pepper spray on him and didn’t clean it. I thought he was dead because he is a sick man and the pepper spray makes it difficult to breathe. The next day the threat of death was great. They told him not to do dialysis and forced him to sign a paper saying he didn’t want to go. He cannot read or write English and there was no one to translate. He was not able to have dialysis. They forced him to sign his own death.

Victor Valdez Report – 12-7-09 – anonymous

I’m writing about Victor Valdez. He was a good man who had the problem of being Hispanic in a predominantly Anglo-Saxonized white man’s prison. Language was a definite barrier for him from the very beginning.

The Officers would badger him on purpose because they knew he’d go off when he became frustrated.

A few months ago he came back from the hospital for his kidney treatment and he was complaining about the abdominal pain and bruises on his arms and forehead. Seems he’d had a “communication problem” about signing the form saying he had refused treatment. He never refused treatment; they just wanted to cover their handling of the situation and his beating by Staff prison officers. He said Damariscotta Hospital took X-rays for complaints of abdominal pain.

On the last night we saw him alive, Officer ­­­_______ badgered him and the incident in mention did not have a Spanish interpreter, although the interpreter came in to remove him from his cell. When he was in the hall, we could hear his screams of abuse and then in Seg [Segregation] he was maced while in handcuffs.

Wish this could have been on better terms, but life is how it is. Sure we committed crimes and a Judge punished us, but is this punishment supposed to occur daily in perpetuity. Are the officers now judges and executioners all in one package? Are they above the law?

When I am released someday I plan on becoming an advocate for those who cannot effectively speak for themselves.

Please do not use my name.

Franklin Higgins 1-21-10

I left Echo Pod at about 4:30 P.M. to go to early medical to do an Accu Check as I am a diabetic. I do not know what went on in the Pod until Mr. Valdez was led into medical about 20 minutes later. Repeatedly asking OFC ____, ______ and Sgt. ______, “What did I do?” “What Did I Do?”

When I saw Mr. Valdez he had blood all over his left arm and back which was very fresh. And it was very obvious by the way OFC ____ and _____ were holding Mr. Valdez that they were in fact exerting excessive force. These OFC’s were both 2 to 2 ½ times the size of Mr. Valdez.

On numerous occasions Mr. Valdez voiced fear and concerns about OFC ____ and OFC ___ who had transported him to his dialysis appointments and scratched and bruised him up, pushed him into walls and doors, defecated gas in his face, violently forced him to sign refusals so that they wouldn’t have to transport him to his appointments.

Mr. Valdez is an older prisoner with heart problems, kidney failure and a language barrier, which in my opinion much of this treatment must a person endure before someone will come to his aid and do something about it to those responsible for this torture?

Even during the time that Mr. Valdez was being Tagged In and not allowed out of his cell he kept asking everyone, “What Did I Do?”

Pedro E. Santiago – Victor Valdez report – 1-14-10

I could testify to what Victor told me the 5th of Nov. 2009, which was when he asked me to help him write a grievance about how he was being discriminated against by the security officer that escorted. His exact words were “These people are going to kill me.” I took it as it was just him hypothetically speaking. Now I must carry the weight of his death on my shoulders.

I also could testify to the fact that there is a language barrier. Just recently ACA* were here and I approached them and told them that there aren’t Spanish materials to follow through writing a grievance nor appeals regarding disciplinary matter. So they issued Spanish Housing Rules. But . . . .no one provided the Spanish grievance forms or appeal forms.

. . . . I never got to help Victor on that grievance. I was lugged to Seg to begin a disciplinary sanction deemed against me unfairly Nov. 5, 2009. When I returned he was dead.

Sincerely, Pedro E. Santiago

*The American Correctional Association examines prisons. Some prison activists feel the ACA is not careful in examining how prisoners are treated, the quality of medical care, violence, etc and that it acts as the trade association of the Corrections Industry.