On a June 2017 night, Ironwood State Prison inmate Pedro Nava says he was washing off at his cell’s sink when officers with evil intent entered.
They gave conflicting commands, handcuffed him and took him outside the building, where officers holding bright flashlights forced him to strip in front of male and female staff as well as dozens of inmates who could see through small window slits.
When Nava complained, a commanding male officer allegedly prompted laughter by saying, “I don’t give a f – – k. Drop your shorts and spread your ass cheeks!”
According to the inmate, he was next ordered to manipulate his penis and scrotum before bending over and spreading his ass cheeks for their inspection.
Meanwhile, other inmates expressed pleasure.
“I could hear many inmates knocking at their windows as this strip search was performed under the illumination of bright flashlights and bright institutional lights which surround the prison parameters,” Nava advised U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna inside Orange County’s Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.
Officers then placed him in “a stifling hot” van for about an hour with the windows rolled up and air conditioning turned off while the outside temperature hovered in the 90s.
During the following five hours, he was stuck in a prison room with intense lights and blasting air conditioning while ordered to straddle a chair arm between his buttocks, conditions he said were reminiscent of Guantanamo Bay-style, sleep-deprivation tactics employed against alleged Middle Eastern terrorists.
Nava pleaded for relief, but, he says, an officer responded by observing he’d complained it was too hot in the van, and then too cold in the room. He then walked away.
The inmate also reported the officers’ actions were in retaliation for an alleged assault on a staff member, a crime that didn’t involve him.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Frederick F. Mumm studied the lawsuit against warden Neil McDowell and other prison officials, then conceded Nava’s factual allegations are “clear and concise.”
But because the non-lawyer inmate failed to “present any cognizable legal theory under which the defendants may be held liable” for constitutional-rights violations, the judge recommended dismissal.
This month, Selna accepted Mumm’s opinion and closed the case.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.