Mafia Snitch Blames Uncle Sam for Blindness

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) – A Mafia snitch sued the United States, claiming it failed to treat his degenerating eyesight in federal prison, leaving him “functionally blind.”
     Ralph Natale sued the Department of Justice, the warden of the Allenwood federal penitentiary and others, in Federal Court.
     Natale led a Philadelphia crime family from 1995 until 1999, when he was indicted for financing drug deals, after being picked up for parole violation a year earlier. Natale struck a deal with federal agents, agreeing to testify against his crew, according to the Los Angeles Times. He testified in at least four trials against former mob colleagues, according to his federal complaint.
     He was released from jail in May 2011 and is in witness protection.
     He claims that while he did time in Pennsylvania federal prisons, prison doctors failed to examine, diagnose and treat his degenerating eyesight, and the government refused to let him get outside medical help.
     “From June 1998 through May 2011, plaintiff was incarcerated in a variety of federal penitentiaries, including but not limited to FCC Allenwood,” the complaint states.
     “While incarcerated, plaintiff worked with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to help the federal government secure convictions against a number of unrelated third parties, including but not limited to testifying as a cooperating witness during federal prosecutions in at least four separate trials from 2000 to at least 2004 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘cooperating period’).
     “During the cooperating period, and more specifically in approximately November of 2002, plaintiff began to report to prison staff and prison physicians about degenerating vision in his left eye.”
     Natale’s eyesight continued to degenerate in both eyes, and he repeatedly requested to be examined and treated, but the government ignored his requests, according to the complaint.
     He claims the government stopped his family from getting outside medical help for him, though it offered to make the arrangements and cover the expenses.
     “Upon information and belief, during the cooperating period, [Natale’s daughter-in-law] Kathaleen Natale (and/or other members of plaintiff’s family) secured permission from the Bureau of Prisons and/or the U.S. Attorney’s Office to have plaintiff seen by doctor(s) at the Wills Eye Institute while plaintiff was testifying nearby, and agreed to pay any overtime and ancillary costs incurred by federal marshals in escorting plaintiff to Wills Eye,” the complaint states.
     “Upon information and belief, Kathaleen Natale therefore secured an appointment for plaintiff to be seen by a specific doctor and/or doctors at Wills Eye, while plaintiff was testifying in Center City Philadelphia during the cooperating period.
     “Despite Kathaleen Natale’s arrangements, and the willingness of plaintiff’s family to shoulder any additional costs created by the Wills Eye visit, plaintiff was never allowed to go through with the appointment, nor was plaintiff allowed to reschedule.” (Parentheses in complaint).
     Natale claims that defendant Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Futcher canceled his appointment and instructed prison staff not to reschedule it. He claims the defendants denied him proper treatment for years, while his eyesight continued to degenerate.
     “For example, on or about Feb. 17, 2005, plaintiff submitted a request to prison staff and/or prison medical staff to be examined by a neuro-ophthalmologist because of his degenerating eyesight, as prison physicians theretofore had failed to properly investigate, diagnose and/or treat plaintiff’s degenerating eyesight,” the complaint states.
     “In response to the aforementioned request, the clinical director of FCC Allenwood ordered that plaintiff see an optometrist yet again because there ‘were no signs to authenticate the inmate’s suspicions.’
     “In another memorable series of events, on or about Sept. 28, 2005, defendant USA produced plaintiff to be examined at the Mayo Clinic by Dr. Brian Younge. Dr. Younge wrote to David Edwardy, O.D. of the Federal Medical Center, that plaintiff had been previously seen by an ‘ophthalmologist and a diagnosis not established,’ that plaintiff had degenerating vision ‘of fairly longstanding nature,’ but that plaintiff had ‘a better level of visual acuity than he admits.’
     “By May 2007, plaintiff was examined by prison staff and/or prison physician(s) at FCC Allenwood, who informed plaintiff that he was legally blind.” (Citation to exhibit omitted).
     Natale claims the defendants never took him to see another ophthalmologist after the 2005 Mayo consultation, though the Mayo doctor had recommended another exam within a few months.
     He says he is “functionally blind, with limited peripheral vision, at best” and suffers from various eye conditions, including macular degeneration and posterior vitreous detachment.
     He seeks $10 million in damages for civil rights violations and negligence.
     He is represented by J. Conor Corcoran.
     Named as defendants are the U.S. Department of Justice, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Futcher, FCC Allenwood Warden Ricardo Martinez, and its Health Services Administrator Kelly DeWald.

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