Setting the Record of Brutality Straight at Donaldson – Responding to the Press

By the National Freedom Movement Coalition

Original Story posted February 5, 2021.

Contact: NFM Media Dept.

1nationalfreedommovement@gmail.com 

On January 30, 2021, four Black men at Donaldson Correctional Facility were targeted for abuse and brutality by officers and sergeants; the four men were Ephan Moore, Robert Earl Council, Wilbert Smith, and Derrol Shaw. Officers attacked and severely beat Moore and Council, who sustained critical injuries. 

  Moore has reported to his family that officers beat him in two separate locations, once in the dorm and a second time while he was handcuffed to a wheelchair in the infirmary. So far, Moore has had two surgeries – with more scheduled – after being stomped, beaten, and struck in the head with an object that is being described as a meat cleaver wielded by Officer Brown. Moore’s family reports his injuries as an orbital and nose fracture, a broken jaw, two broken hands, and at least 10 staples in his head, among other injuries. 

Council’s injuries, which include serious head and face trauma and broken ribs, were so severe that he had to be airlifted to UAB Trauma Unit. As of February 2, 2021, Wilbert Smith’s whereabouts are unknown and his status is the same — he was believed to have been escorted out by members of CERT (Correctional Emergency Response Team) who arrived at Donaldson after the prison was put on lockdown just after the beatings of Moore and Council. Shaw was forced to defend himself from the brutal attack and was able to escape serious injury, although he was overwhelmed by the chemical agent that was sprayed. 

A few media outlets, taking word primarily from the corrupt, brutal Alabama Department of Corrections, have begun putting out articles on this attack, but focusing more on two guards who were allegedly stabbed — witnesses say Ofc. Brown sustained injuries from the meat cleaver he used to butcher Moore — and downplaying the injuries of the Donaldson 4 as if they were minor. It is worth reiterating that Ephan Moore was struck three times in the head with an object described as a free world meat cleaver carried by one of the officers; eyewitnesses report seeing his head split open all the way down his face; he was brutally attacked after having a mental health crisis in his dormitory. Sgt. Binder – one of the attackers – had previously beaten Moore, according to a civil complaint about the incident.

 Robert Earl Council (also known as Kinetik Justice) was attempting to de-escalate the situation and was pleading with guards to stop beating on Moore before retreating to his cell after being overcome with the chemical spray. Sgt. Milton and several other officers stalked Council to his cell where they then struck him in the face with a metal baton. Sgt. Binder and Ofc. Griffin then proceeded to strike Council in the head with batons, rendering him unconscious. While unconscious, Council was beaten profusely then dragged out of his cell by his feet, leaving a trail of blood. Images of a vast pool of  Council’s blood inside his cell were captured in widely circulated video. 

See video: 

    Council is the third member of the Free Alabama Movement to be beaten or targeted for attack at Donaldson. In 2016, James Pleasant was beaten while housed in the “hot bay” unit by the same officers. 

     See Blog post: https://freealabamamovement.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/urgent-violent-attack-against-f-a-m-member-mr-james-ware-at-donaldson-cf/

    Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun had a hit put in his life by the warden and captain at Donaldson in 2016.  He was also harassed by Officer Binder and others, and was severely beaten by Commissioner Dunn’s hit squad in 2015. 

See video of Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun beaten by officers:  

Also see: Donaldson Revealed, written in 2016: https://freealabamamovement.org/?p=1099

Meanwhile, the officers who were allegedly stabbed and received “multiple other injuries” were treated first at the onsite medical facility, and then at a local hospital before being released. These alleged injuries are superficial at best. 

  In response to the most recent attack, ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn has announced his intent to implement the use of body cameras on supervisors at the prison, and is conducting a review of staffing to determine if adjustments are needed. This is an outrageous, ineffective response to the ongoing brutality at Donaldson Correctional Facility, most of which has been documented by incarcerated activists in the facility, led by the Free Alabama Movement. How are body cameras supposed to be effective when officers can walk around the prison with a meat cleaver, brutally beating on other human beings and then facing no consequences? There has been no indication that any of these officers will face charges or even lose their jobs for nearly killing two people. 

         Meanwhile, officers wasted no time charging men at Donaldson with unfounded disciplinaries related to the assault. This brutality has been documented for years, so what good would body cameras be? Additionally, Dunn has requested the FBI’s Northern District Office assist in an investigation into the incident. But this assault occurred in the midst of a years-long Department of Justice investigation into ADOC which has yet to prevent such brutality from happening.

More than a Decade of Abuse Recorded at Donaldson

For a full understanding of this particularly vicious attack, it is necessary for the press and the public to understand the full scope and long history of brutality at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility. It took a federal lawsuit to force Donaldson to remove a sign from the back entrance of the prison that greeted new arrivals with the ominous greeting: “Welcome to the House of Pain.” The pain administered at the prison more than lived up to this “creed.”

 Most of this brutality has been documented heavily in the last 7 years since the formation of the Free Alabama Movement, but it also goes back before then; in 2009, a class-action lawsuit known as “Hicks vs. Hetzel” was filed on behalf of those incarcerated at Donaldson for the inhumane conditions allowed to persist there — at that time, Donaldson was at 173% capacity, overcrowding that led to illness, an increase in violence between prisoners, and increased brutality from officers. Donaldson is designed to house only 700 people, and is regularly overcrowded and understaffed; as of 2020, the capacity is 1,500 people. In this era of COVID-19, overcrowding effectively turns Donaldson into a petri dish and superspreader for the virus- at least two people incarcerated there have died of the virus, though the number is likely to be higher. This is another failure of the ADOC and more blood on their hands. 

On March 14, 2016, following two back-to-back riots at Holman Prison in Atmore, Alabama, five men: Amir Davis, Antonio Spencer, Kendrick Gaskin, Kevin Etheridge, and Tyreke (last name unknown) were transferred from Holman to Donaldson. Upon arrival, all five men were beaten sadistically and sexually assaulted by over 10 guards at Donaldson. In an interview, Kendrick Gaskin describes how they were taken to a back gate at Donaldson, removed from the van in handcuffs, shackles, and body chains, and then, one by one, taken to a shack where they were brutally beaten, sexually assaulted by stomping them in their genital area, and how the nurses in the infirmary either refused to document their injuries or had simply written that they had “fallen off the van.” When word of these horrific attacks reached the family, Commissioner Price and the wardens of Donaldson began another process of a cover up, which succeeded; none of the officers were charged or even terminated for these beatings and sexual assaults. 

See interview of Kendrick Gaskin Part 1:

      Gaskin Interview Part 2:

This culture and customary sexual abuse at Donaldson is well documented in the lawsuit filed by Sammy Duncan, whose testicle had to be removed after he was sexually assaulted by the “Donaldson Stomp” and beaten. 

See class action lawsuit:           https://t.co/I9wPFvVAcB

The officer who carried out this attack, Lt. Jenkins, has a long and sordid history of brutality and violence. Jenkins has been promoted several times during his tenure under Commissioner Dunn, showing a pattern of reward for brutality at Donaldson. 

Additionally, there have been multiple lawsuits brought against Donaldson Prison and ADOC on behalf of the men incarcerated there who have been beaten, brutalized, and raped by officers. In 2017, Jeffrey Paul Eugene Stout was severely beaten in the notorious “hot-bay.” A second threat to beat him again, made by officer Charles Willis just days later, was partly captured on video. 

 See video of Jeffery Stout being threatened here:

There have been multiple murders of men at Donaldson by guards, all of which have been covered up by the wardens, the Commissioner, and the ADOC as a whole; one of the more notable cases was Steven Davis, who was beaten to death by officers in the “Behavioral Modification” or “hot-bay” dorm in 2019, which is a newer, horrific addition to Donaldson. His killer, Ofc. Gadson, was promoted by Commissioner Dunn less than six months after this murder. 

Just in the past year, two more at least two other men were brutally killed by institutional malice and neglect. On June 22, 2020 Darnell McMillian died in a suicide watch cell after reports indicate that officers pepper sprayed him and locked him in the cell, where he asphyxiated. And in December 2020, Tommy Lee Rutledge was left in a 101 degree cell in a mental health unit to die of hyperthermia, in the midst of a cold December night. His body was found facing the window and with an internal temperature of 109 degrees. 

See video of other men beaten to death:

In the last decade men incarcerated at Donaldson Correctional facility have filed dozens of lawsuits detailing the use of unconstitutional excessive force by prison staff.  Below are just two of their stories: 

Adrian Dunning:  On July 5th, 2018, Officers entered Dunning’s cell in the hotbay to collect him for a visit to the healthcare unit.  Upon entering the cell they sprayed him with mace and proceeded to beat him with their feet, fists, and batons. The defendants then dragged the plaintiff out of  his cell and into the main area and continued beating him, in view of other prisoners. Fearing for his life, Dunning wrestled free from the officers, and climbed the stairs up to the top tier.  Several of the defendants followed. Dunning climbed over the rail, and tried to scale his way back down to the floor away from the defendants. Officer Maclemore hit Dunning’s hand with a baton, causing Dunning to lose grip and fall around 12 feet to the ground. The defendants surrounded him again on the lower level and continued the beating.  Dunning sustained the following injuries: broken hand, femur, nose as well as blunt trauma to the front of his head and eyes. He was medi-evacuated to the University of Alabama hospital where he received emergency surgery.  This event is described in the federally filed complaint. 

Christopher Jordan Jackson:

On April 22, 2016, Captain Baldwin and the CERT team, including Officer Edmonds and Officer Melton came to Jackson’s cell, which  was flooded from the toilet.   Angered by the state of his cell, the officers ordered Jackson to strip, and then proceeded to beat him while he was naked on the unsanitary floor.  The officers used their batons and stomped on his body. The beating was so severe Jackson defecated on the floor. Following the assault,  Jackson received 16 staples to his head.  Breaking protocol, the nurses and officers refused to photograph any injuries other than his head, and prohibited Jackson from writing an incident report. Two weeks later his hand was X-rayed, revealing broken bones.  Prison officials refused to send him to an outside hospital, nor put his broken hand in a cast.   Jackson’s efforts to reach the physical abuse department, the FBI, and the DOJ received no response. This event is described in a federally filed complaint.  

Also see Dewey Buttram video interview about his abuse at Donaldson here: 

Also see video interview of Zachery Wilson here:

   The public needs to know that the statements being issued by Commissioner Dunn are damage control and an attempt to cover up a slaughter at the hands of his correctional officer gang. The call for the FBI to get involved in the investigation alongside the ADOC’S Investigative Division smacks of a fraud, as the DOJ has already castigated this agency as part of the culture of violence and corruption within ADOC. The solution to this problem begins with accountability, starting with the termination and arrest of these officers for assault and attempted murder. Additional measures must include:

  • Return Robert Council and Ephan Moore to a free world hospital where they can receive appropriate medical care and rehabilitation services
  • Commissioner Dunn needs to be fired or forced to resign effective immediately 
  • The investigation into this matter needs to include advocacy groups, independent counsel and independent media representatives, not simply state and federal officials. 
  • The families of each of these men must be allowed to visit them immediately. The families and/or legal representatives of all four men must be allowed daily contact indefinitely to be assured of their well-being. 
  • The officers involved must be terminated immediately and charged, including but not limited to all wardens and Sergeant Binder, Sergeant Brown,  Sergeant Melton, and Officer Griffin.
  • Each of the Donaldson 4 must be allowed unrestricted access to an independent media source accompanied by counsel of their own choosing pursuant to Adm Reg. to tell their story if they see fit. 

   ###

Special thanks to our National Freedom Movement Coalition supporter Workers World Party for their outstanding work and commitment to this effort. They can be reached at http://workers.org

Support for Ephan Moore:

https://givebutter.com/ephanmoorefund

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