Hamm v. City of New York et al

Summary

Federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of Thomas Hamm against the City of New York and New York City Department of Correction (DOC) officers and supervisors after a brutal attack on Mr. Hamm while he visited his long-time partner, P.F., at a men’s facility on Rikers Island.

On May 9, 2014, Mr. Hamm, a gay man, went to visit his long-time partner, P.F., at a DOC correctional facility on Rikers Island, where P.F. was serving a sentence.  When Mr. Hamm greeted P.F. with a hug and a kiss, they were ordered by corrections officers to stop embracing, even though other visitors around them were allowed to embrace.  The DOC Directive on Inmate Visit Procedures states that “inmates and visitors are permitted to kiss, embrace and hold hands.”  The harassment continued when Mr. Hamm and P.F. held hands on the table, like many others around them, as they were speaking.  Corrections officers called Mr. Hamm and P.F. “faggots” and ordered them to stop holding hands, then -abruptly ended the visit.



As Mr. Hamm was preparing to leave the facility,  one of the corrections officers who had been harassing the couple said to Mr. Hamm, in sum and substance, “Fucking homosexual, who the fuck do you think you are?” and “You’ll burn in hell.”   As Mr. Hamm tried to go, the corrections officers grabbed him and viciously beat him, repeatedly punching and kicking him.  As his head bled profusely, Mr. Hamm begged the officers to stop.  Finally, Mr. Hamm was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he was shackled to his bed overnight and diagnosed with facial fractures and head trauma. After his discharge from the hospital, corrections officers took Mr. Hamm back to Rikers, where he was given an order banning him from visiting the facility for 180 days. Consistent with the notorious violence and cover-ups by corrections officers and officials at Rikers, the perpetrators claimed that the 5’6” Mr. Hamm had tried to strike an officer, and omitted reporting the violence against him.  Adding further insult to brutal injury, Mr. Hamm was falsely charged with assault in the third degree and harassment in the second degree.  The charges  were adjourned in contemplation of dismissal.

The lawsuit asserts that the City of New York and its Department of Correction officers violated the U.S. Constitution’s First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as the Constitution and laws of New York, including the New York Human Rights Law, by singling out the couple with discriminatory treatment at the visitor’s center and the subsequent violent attack that left Mr. Hamm severely injured. 

History

  • October 2015 Lambda Legal files amended complaint.

Case Information

Status: Open

Clients

Thomas Hamm

Attorneys

Lambda Legal:

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Counsel

Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation

Rankin & Taylor PLLC:

David B. Rankin

Robert M. Quackenbush