Prisoner Claims He Was Punished for Writing
BROOKLYN (CN) - A man finishing up a seven-year sentence for arsons linked to the Earth Liberation Front claims in court that he was taken from a halfway house and placed in solitary confinement in a federal prison in retaliation for writing for independent online news outlets.
Daniel G. McGowan was sentenced to prison in June 2007 with an added "terrorism enhancement." Although his federal lawsuit does not explain the precise charges for his 84-month sentence, the Huffington Post story he cites says his convictions stemmed from arsons at two lumber companies in Oregon. It also says that he started his sentence at FCI Sandstone, "a low security facility in Minnesota."
"My case, and the federal government's rush to prosecute environmental activism in the form of terrorism, were recently explored in the Oscar-nominated documentary, 'If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front,'" McGowan wrote for Huffington Post.
In his lawsuit, filed Wednesday, McGowan claims he was released to The Brooklyn House after five years in federal prison, to serve out the rest of his sentence.
"During this period, Mr. McGowan was given daily work passes. He was and is employed full-time as a receptionist. He was also allowed home visits every weekend," he said in his lawsuit.
But on April 1, 2013, the Huffington Post published an article he wrote: "Court Documents Prove I was Sent to a Communications Management Unit (CMU) for My Political Speech."
The lawsuit doesn't disclose what the article discussed, but in it he calls the so-called "CMUs" as an "experimental segregation unit, opened under the Bush Administration."
He claims in the article that the CMUs were opened secretly, and are "designed to isolate prisoners from the rest of the prisoner population, and more importantly, from the rest of the world."
Three days after the article ran, he was sent back to a federal detention center. While two other halfway house residents were also taken to the prison for violating house rules that day, McGowan says he was the only one placed in solitary confinement.
He says he was released the next day and sent back to the halfway house with a written warning to refrain from having "contact with the media without approval from [Bureau of Prisoner's] Residential Reentry Manager."
McGowan claims the decisions to remove him and place him in solitary confinement in a federal prison "were taken in retaliation for Mr. McGowan's exercise of his right to free speech."
He first filed suit in September 2012 in District of Columbia Federal Court, challenging the Bureau of Prisons for secretly creating the "experimental prison units designed to isolate certain prisoners from the rest of the BOP and the outside world."
In his new complaint, McGowan seeks punitive damages for false imprisonment, assault, negligence, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Named as defendants are The United States of America; Tracy Rivers, Residential Reentry Manager; Unknown Marshals; Community First Services; Core Service Group; Grace Terry, Facility Director; and Massiel Suriel, case manager.
McGowan is represented by David B. Rankin with Rankin & Taylor in Manhattan.