A federal jury on Monday struck down a civil lawsuit filed by a Montana state inmate claiming his civil rights were violated while he was incarcerated in the Lewis and Clark County Detention Center.
Duane Belanus, 40, filed the lawsuit in 2012, alleging his rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment were violated by county employees who allowed him to be beaten by other inmates in 2009, according to court documents. He alleged that the assault left him with with permanent facial disfigurements, severe migraines, chipped teeth, ringing in the ears, a popping jaw, nightmares, anxiety, a broken nose and a broken jaw.
Belanus is currently incarcerated on two separate life sentences in connection with the kidnapping and rape of a woman with whom he once had a relationship.
He alleged in his handwritten complaint that those accused of sex crimes and other offenses disliked by other inmates were kept away from the general population prior to July 11, 2009, and that he was "seriously assaulted" after being moved to the general population despite voicing concerns to jail staff.
"I, and others, were housed in segregated housing due to our crimes," the complaint says. "The over-crowding of the jail forced the supervisors of The Detention Center to make an executive decision to place us into General Population."
The complaint alleges that a staff member told other inmates about the charges against Belanus, which led to the "hate crime" against him, and that staff members should have been trained to not disclose information about inmates. It also says officers failed to act on Belanus' concerns even after witnessing other inmates calling him names and making threats, and that he suffered in pain for several hours before being transported to the hospital after the attack.
Belanus sought to have Sheriff Leo Dutton suspended and fined, and other officers suspended, fined and/or fired.
He also wrote that the state is responsible for all medical bills he acquired while in jail, and that his constitutional rights were violated when he was sentenced to pay for his own medical costs as restitution.
The jury decided that none of the three officers on duty violated Belanus’ constitutional rights and awarded him no damages.
Independent Record editor Jesse Chaney contributed to this report.