Rodney DeLong, Jr., was murdered two minutes after being placed into the same cell as a convicted murderer affiliated with the Aryan Brotherhood.
The California Department and Corrections and Rehabilitation has agreed to settle a multi-million-dollar lawsuit filed by the family of a man who was murdered less than a half-hour after being placed into the same cell as a prolific and violent criminal.
According to The Mercury News, the family of Rodney DeLong, Jr., announced the settlement earlier this month.
The agreement, notes The Mercury News, came shortly after a judge ruled that several guards named in the lawsuit could not claim “qualified immunity.”
Qualified immunity refers to a legal doctrine that shields government agencies and employees from civil liability if a case or complaint relates to an incident which occurred in what could be considered the course of their ordinary and expected duties.
DeLong, adds the News, was stabbed to death by 44-year-old Aryan Brotherhood member Robert Stockton in May 2018. DeLong was, at the time, placed in the High Desert State Prison near Susanville, California.
While the prison’s Strategic Offender Management System, or SOMS, showed that DeLong was listed as a known “enemy” of the Aryan Brotherhood, he was nonetheless placed in the same cell as Stockton, who was serving a life sentence for murder.
The Denver Post quotes the DeLong family’s lawsuit as saying that prison staff knew, or should have known, that the Aryan Brotherhood expects that its members would be obliged to attack an enemy of the organization on sight—and if they did not, they would face violent retribution themselves.
“The planned attacks and violence perpetrated by the AB against its enemies (such as DeLong) is longstanding, pervasive, and well-documented such that defendants, and each of them, knew that placing DeLong with a member of the AB would pose a substantial risk to his health and safety,” attorney Eugene Chittock wrote in the lawsuit.
Just minutes after being laced into his new cell, DeLong was stabbed to death.
In a September ruling, a federal judge found that the prison guards could not claim the defense of qualified immunity if the allegations of a negligent cell placement are later substantiated.
“Taking the Plaintiffs’ allegations as true at the pleading stage, a reasonable officer could infer that failure to check SOMS prior to housing Stockton and [DeLong] together would subject [DeLong] to a substantial risk of harm,” U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley wrote in a September ruling. “Because Eighth Amendment protection from deliberate indifference to inmate health and safety is an established constitutional right … Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity.”
In a separate article, The Mercury News observes that Stockton’s name was regularly mentioned during a 2019 racketeering case filed by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.
The case, which targets the Aryan Brotherhood’s leadership, alleges that, in 2016, Stockton murdered another 20-year-old inmate on the orders of another gang member, ostensibly because the victim owed a drug debt.
DeLong, says The Denver Post, had been serving time on a burglary charge and had only seven months left on his sentence when he was killed.
In a 2019 parole hearing, Stockton denied all involvement with the Aryan Brotherhood, saying he was an active member “in name only.”