Inmate ‘not the same person’ after beating in OPP, mother says _lowres

Bruce Hall

Beryl Foley could have been forgiven for almost believing she was in the wrong hospital room.

She recognized the patient, bruised and battered with a bandage covering his eye, as Bruce Hall, her 27-year-old son. But the man’s speech and incoherent demeanor, days after he was savagely beaten inside Orleans Parish Prison, seemed nothing short of foreign.

At the sight of his mother, Foley said, Hall grew emotional and began speaking in what sounded like a Jamaican accent. She said she couldn’t glean specifics about her son’s injuries but feared, based on the almost surreal encounter, that he may have suffered brain damage.

“That just wasn’t my child,” Foley said in an interview Thursday, recalling her visit to LSU Interim Hospital last week. “He was not the same person that went into (the prison).”

Few details have surfaced about Hall’s attack, which happened Jan. 22 at the jail’s Conchetta facility and involved at least two other inmates.

One of the assailants, 18-year-old Theron Carter, stomped on Hall and kicked him in the head while he lay on the floor, rendering him “unable to speak or understand anything,” according to an Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office report.

But even as Foley said she has struggled to learn the particulars of her son’s ordeal, her hospital visit offers a glimpse of the severity of the assault, which appears to be among the most serious the jail has seen over the past several months.

The extent of Hall’s injuries may explain why Sheriff’s Office investigators decided to rebook Carter and 18-year-old Javon Tapp on a count of second-degree battery, a felony, even as Carter maintained he acted in self-defense.

Foley said she didn’t find out about the beating — or her son’s hospitalization — for about five days, though she later learned he’d been in intensive care for at least part of that time. Since then, she said, she’s had trouble sleeping and has had problems with her nerves.

“The only thing I can think about is the pain my child endured,” she said. “For my child to endure them type of injuries, repeatedly, just kicked in the head like that, I need some justice.”

The Sheriff’s Office, in some instances, has revealed limited information about the injuries inmates receive behind bars. In a separate jailhouse attack Jan. 29 at the jail’s Templeman V building, a 22-year-old inmate received an apparently fractured jaw and bruises to his face after two inmates “jumped him,” according to a Sheriff’s Office report filed into court documents.

Citing “medical privacy laws,” Philip Stelly, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman, declined to comment on Hall’s injuries, beyond saying the inmate is in stable condition. Stelly confirmed that Hall remained hospitalized Thursday evening, but he would not say whether the man’s injuries had been considered life-threatening.

The Orleans Public Defender’s Office, which represents Hall in his attempted robbery case, also had no comment on Hall’s injuries.

“He’s in and out,” Foley said of her son. “I don’t know if he’s got long-term injuries.”

Hall’s plight represents an all-too familiar occurrence for inmates awaiting trial at OPP, where violence is common. The Conchetta facility on Tulane Avenue has been the site of numerous inmate-on-inmate attacks in recent years, including many involving youths being prosecuted as adults.

Local authorities last year opened a murder investigation into the death of Willie Lee, a 40-year-old inmate who collapsed after a fight with a fellow inmate in one of the jail’s temporary housing tents. Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, the parish coroner, classified Lee’s death as a homicide, citing “cardiac arrest as a result of an inmate-on-inmate physical altercation” as the reason he died.

Along with other substandard conditions, the jail’s notorious violence persuaded a federal judge to order sweeping reforms of the jail and approve a 2013 consent agreement reached between Gusman and the U.S. Justice Department.

Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.