A Macomb Corrections prison worker was awarded nearly $1.3 million by a Macomb County jury for his treatment by supervisors after he was injured trying to restrain a prisoner and attempted to be kept away of the detainee.
The six-person jury unanimously determined the award for Darrin Rushing, 53, of Port Huron, for events over several years in prison while employed by the Michigan Department of Corrections, following a a three-week trial before the Edward Servitto circuit. The jury deliberated for nine to ten hours over two days.
Rushing’s attorney, Jonathan Marko, said that although they asked for $3.8 million, they are happy with the outcome as it reflects wrongdoing by MDOC leadership.
“It shows that the Department of Corrections broke the law, that what they did was illegal, and held them accountable,” Marko said.
He said his client was “relieved, happy and vindicated” by the verdict.
He said the allegations were part of a pattern of behavior by the MDOC. The department has reportedly been the subject of several six- and seven-figure verdicts and settlements in recent years. Marko has sued the department about 25 times over the past 10 years, mostly over its treatment of employees as well as some prisoner claims. That included an $11.4 million verdict in 2019 for two black employees who sued for discrimination and retaliation.
Marko called the department “Michigan’s corruption department” and described the officials’ behavior as “political angling and cronyism.”
“I think this corruption and mismanagement is an institutional problem that goes back decades,” he said. “When you have an atmosphere like that, it’s very hard to correct the court. A lot of these problems start at the top – and I’m referring to Lansing – and the decisions that are made there. The people who got promoted weren’t necessarily the best, but the ones who played the best. »
He blamed the state for trying to misrepresent Rushing during the trial and for insincerely talking about trying to resolve the case during the preliminary stages. He called the state’s legal strategy “the three D’s – deny, deflect and deceive”.
Rushing filed a lawsuit in 2019 and alleged ‘disrespect’ of his disability created by the injury on the job, ‘disparate treatment’ compared to other employees and ‘retaliation’ against him by MDOC officials. for his complaints, according to court documents.
Rushing was named one of the department’s top recruits when he started in 1999 after serving honorably in the Marines for six years during Desert Storm, Marko said.
Rushing broke his ankle in 2011 as he and other corrections officials tried to hold prisoner Lester Gunn, 36, at the facility at 26 Mile Road in Lenox Township, Marko said. Gunn is a 6-foot-2, 189-pound man who has six convictions for assaulting a prison worker for four incidents from 2012 to 2019, MDOC records show.
When Rushing returned to work, he was using a cane and given light duties at first, then appointed an adviser so he probably wouldn’t have contact with Gunn.
But in 2015, when new principal Randall Haas took over, Rushing was forced back into his job as a correctional officer. Haas allegedly testified that he reassigned Rushing due to a shortage of corrections officers.
Rushing, who suffered from PTSD as a result of the incident with Rushing, asked to be considered for a “special problem offender notice” so he could avoid contact with Gunn. Rushing suffered two breakdowns and indicated he was having panic attacks and wanted to hurt Gunn, Marko said.
“He just asked to be kept away from the prisoner who assaulted him,” Marko said.
But Rushing was denied the designation and was forced to continue working with the inmates.
Marko said Rushing was treated “horribly” by the MDOC and rejected in numerous attempts to be promoted or moved to other jobs outside the department despite having high qualifications, including multiple college degrees. He was disciplined and cited for insubordination, and received poor credentials, Marko said. In 2016, a superior filed a personal protection order based on lies and was dismissed by Macomb Circuit Judge Jennifer Faunce, he said.
Meanwhile, his colleagues who testified at trial portrayed a positive and opposing view of Rushing, he said.
“Every witness has said what a good person Mr. Rushing is, what a good employee he is and what a dedicated person he is,” he said.
When he returned to work Thursday, employees gave Rushing a standing ovation, he said.
In an ironic twist, Rushing finally received a promotion to sergeant two weeks before the trial, Marko said. He said he believed he received the promotion because he deserved it.
Marko said he didn’t know if Rushing would continue to work there.
The state can appeal the decision and drag out the case and payment for several months or more, he added.
The attorney general’s office, which argued the case, did not return a request for comment late Friday afternoon.
The compensation is broken down into $546,000 suffered in the past for non-economic damages, including physical pain and suffering and mental anguish, among others; $321,750 each for future pain and suffering and future economic damage; and $80,500 for past economic damages.
Gunn is now housed at the Woodland Correctional Facility in Whitmore Lake.