philadelphia >> In an ironic turn of events, Barry Robert Baker Jr., the Chester County man found guilty and sent to prison for assaulting a physically disabled man outside a borough convenience store, throwing what amounted to a “sucker punch” at him, wants compensation for an attack he says was unprovoked.
On March 4, an attorney for Baker filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia against Chester County and four corrections officers at the Chester County Prison, alleging that one of the officers struck him in his cell, threw him to the ground, an assaulted him while others watched.
Baker, in the suit, contends that he suffered head and shoulder injuries from the attack — which he said was retribution for contesting a sanction — and now experiences seizures. Throughout his court appearances and trial last year, Baker wore a sling on his left arm.
The suit asks for damages in excess of $150,000 on counts of use of excessive force, failure to intervene, failure to train, and assault. The complaint was filed by attorney Brian Zeiger of the Philadelphia firm of Levin & Zeiger.
County Solicitor Thomas Whiteman said Wednesday that his office had not been served with the complaint and that he thus could not comment on it.
Baker first made the accusations of an assault by corrections officers in a handwritten letter mailed to the Daily Local News of West Chester in August, a few days after the alleged incident, which the suit states occurred on July 31. In it, he identified himself as “the person whom you guys love writing about,” and stated that he was assaulted by one of the officers assigned to the protective custody block of the prison where he is being housed.
In the suit, he contends that he was given a sanction for having a clothesline in his cell, an item that he says was not his but that had been installed by another inmate who had previously been housed in his cell. He claims that as punishment, a television set he had in the cell was taken away.
When Baker questioned the punishment and asked to speak with a supervisor, according to the suit, one of the corrections officers he was speaking to “(became) incensed with rage and anger and lunged” at him. He said the officer slapped him, causing him to hit his head against a wall; the officer then threw him to the floor and tussled with him, while two other officers stood and watched.
Baker said he was ultimately punished for the incident and given 50 days in “the hole,” presumably solitary confinement.
Baker, 29, of Georgetown, Del., and formerly of East Fallowfield, Chester County, was charged with simple assault and related counts in the May attack on a 22-year-old man who has cerebral palsy. Baker is accused of leveling a punch that caught the man square in the face as he stood beside his car outside the 7-Eleven store on South High Street in West Chester.
Before throwing the punch, Baker had twice mocked the way the man walked, according to police. The episode was captured on video, which went viral on the internet after it was released by county prosecution authorities.
Last year, after pleading guilty to charges involving the sucker punch and his ensuing flight from apprehension, Baker was sentenced to three to six years in state prison by Common Pleas Judge William Mahon, who called him a “bully,” a “coward,” and a “predator.”
He is currently serving his sentence in the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill.
No trial date has been set for the lawsuit.
To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.