The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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June 1, 2014

Imam: I was slurred, held against will

WILLIAMSPORT — An imam employed by the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township claims in a federal lawsuit he endured a co-worker’s religious and racial slurs, and after a confrontation with the lockup’s leadership, was paraded like a prisoner through the complex to the jeers and taunts of inmates.

“You don’t go to work in a prison expecting to be made a prisoner,” said Sunbury attorney Tim Bowers, who with Kymberley Best is representing Mustafa Abuomar.

Abuomar, of Mount Carmel, claims his Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights were violated and is suing the state Department of Corrections, Coal Township prison superintendent Vince Mooney, and Majors Edward Baumbach and Dennis Brumfield.

Abuomar states in his lawsuit that he suffered after filing a complaint with the Department of Corrections’ Equal Employment Opportunity Commission following a corrections officer’s inappropriate ethnic, racial and religious slurs about him.

Abuomar claims he refused Mooney’s order to write a detailed statement about his interaction with the corrections officer, saying the EEOC was investigating the matter.

A prison official called Mooney and handed the phone to Abuomar, who reiterated he was not going to write a statement. Mooney, court documents state, began to curse Abuomar and hung up.

Abuomar called the EEOC to report the incident, the complaint states, then returned to his office to contact Bowers and Best.

That is when, he claims, Baumbach and Brumfield entered his office, grabbed the phone from his hand and ordered him to accompany them, court documents said.

Abuomar, who said he was afraid, complied.

Baumbach and Brumfield would not allow Abuomar to remain in his office or leave the prison, according to the complaint, which states the imam was escorted prisoner-style through the facility via the dining area, education building, and medical, security and control common areas.

Abuomar claims he was in full view of inmates who jeered, screamed and taunted him because he was being escorted by two uniformed officers.

Abuomar was eventually led to Mooney’s conference room, where Brumfield ordered the cleric to sit and prohibited him from leaving. Mooney entered and ordered Abuomar to write a statement. After Abuomar explained he already gave a statement to the EEOC, Mooney accused the imam of lying, according to court documents.

Mooney pressured Abuomar to sign a written statement and under duress, the cleric finally agreed.

After Abuomar wrote his version of events regarding the slurs, Mooney read the statement and did not like the content. Abuomar would have to re-write the statement and only if it satisfied Mooney would he be allowed to leave.

Again, prisoner-style, according to the lawsuit.

Abuomar says his Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights were violated during the incident, that he endured battery by Brumfield, and because prison officials knew what was happening, he is entitled to a Monell claim in his suit.

A Monell claim can represent persistent and pervasive unconstitutional practices within an institution and leadership’s failure to respond to that misconduct.

Abuomar is also suing for emotional distress and said he should have been protected under the Whistleblower Law. He also cites false imprisonment for being held against his will and that prison officials conspired to interfere with his civil rights.

Brumfield, Baumbach and Mooney acted with the purpose of impeding, interfering, hindering, obstructing or defeating justice with the intent to deny him equal protection of the law based on his Arab ethnicity and Islamic faith, Abuomar claims, by seizing him and attempting to coerce him to write a statement in retraction of his complaints to the EEOC.

Abuomar is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and costs.

 

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