Tsarnaev claims prison guards “discriminated” against him by confiscating his baseball cap and bandana.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the only surviving Boston Marathon Bomber, has filed a $250,000 lawsuit against the federal government.
In his hand-written complaint, Tsarnaev claims to have been subject to “disturbing” and “unprofessional” treatment while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex Florence in Colorado. Also known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies,” Florence is a high-security “supermax” prison known for its stringent security measures and high-profile inmates.
Tsarnaev, 26, alleges that Florence guards—along with the prison warden—have subjected him to “unlawful, unreasonable and discriminatory” actions and behaviors.
Among Tsarnaev’s principle complaints is the confiscation of a white baseball cap and bandana. Tsarnaev says he purchased both items in the prison commissary, and is therefore entitled to continue using and wearing them as he sees fit.
According to Tsarnaev, his headgear was taken away by prison guards “because, by wearing it, I was ‘disrespecting’ the FBI and the victims’ of the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombing.”
“There was no proof and no evidence to support [the] false accusation,” he added.
Tsarnaev further alleges that he has been singled out for other sorts of abuse. For instance, Tsarnaev has complained of only being allowed to shower three times per week, despite his Muslim faith requiring that he keep himself clean.
The harsh treatment, Tsarnaev states, has contributed to his precipitous “mental and physical decline.”
The Boston Herald notes that, although Tsarnaev’s lawsuit has been filed and assigned a federal judge, it has yet to be accepted by the court. That’s because Tsarnaev’s “filing [was] deficient,” because he did not include with his lawsuit “a certified copy of prisoner’s trust fund statement” alongside a $402 filing fee.
The Herald further states that, in his lawsuit, Tsarnaev did not elaborate on why Florence staff may have construed his purchase and use of a white hat as offensive.
However—as the Herald recounts— Tsarnaev was observed leaving the scene of the Boston Marathon bombing in a white cap. Before he and his brother, Tamerlan—who was killed in a shootout days after the terror attack–were identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dzhokhar was referred to by investigators as “White Hat.”
Dzhokhar and Tamerlan’s attack killed three people and injured more than 260. Several days later, while on the run, the brothers murdered an MIT police officer.
Another Boston officer was injured in a shootout between the brothers and law enforcement and died in 2014.
NBC Boston adds that Tsarnaev was sentenced to death for his role in the bombing. However, Dzhokhar won an appeal last year which resulted his death sentence being thrown out due to concerns with jury selection.
Since then, the Department of Justice has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review Tsarnaev’s case, calling it “one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in our nation’s history.”
Bob Hood, Florence’s former warden, said that Tsarnaev’s lawsuit is common—and speaks to the conditions he endures at the nation’s toughest prison.
“I get it,” Hood said. “He wants more than three showers per week. But he’s a twenty-something living in a seven-foot box, where life is worse than if he did get the death penalty.”*
(writer’s note: the first version of this article initially misquoted Warden Hood as saying “where life is worth than…” rather than “where life is worse than”)