A 74-year-old inmate who filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Department of Corrections and its former and current officials for breaching a previous settlement agreement has agreed to settle his new complaint.

District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona dismissed Price Shoiter’s complaint with prejudice on Feb. 11, 2021 after receiving a stipulation of dismissal from the parties.

She said each party will bear their own attorney’s fees and costs.

As stipulated, the district court retains jurisdiction for the purpose of enforcing the terms of the settlement agreement.

In his complaint, Shoiter alleged that Corrections officials had not complied with the terms of the settlement agreement entered on Aug. 16, 2018, and had continued to deny him adequate medical care.

Shoiter, who is serving a 10-year prison term for sexually abusing a seven-year-old girl, also alleged that in July 2019, he was admitted to the hospital due to chest pain. A doctor recommended that he see a cardiologist, but Shoiter was told that he could not be referred because he is a Chuukese national.

In his first amended complaint, Shoiter named as defendants former Corrections Commissioner Vince S. Attao, directors Gregory Castro and Georgia Cabrera, and current Commissioner Wally Villagomez.

Shoiter sought reparations for general, consequential, compensatory, and punitive damages; and a declaration that the defendants' actions violated his constitutional rights.

Shoiter also wanted the court to issue an order directing Attao and all other applicable parties “to stop subjecting inmates to unlawful and unconstitutional treatment”; to provide “off-island medical referral for heart surgery, medical referral for eye surgery, SYNVISC-1 injection to Shoiter’s knees; correct, complete, and unexpired prescribed medication; a policy and procedure to ensure that all inmates have adequate medical care.”

Shoiter also asked the court to award him attorney's fees and litigation costs.

The previous settlement agreement involved 14 inmates, including Shoiter, who sued Corrections on June 1, 2018.

They alleged that Corrections failed to provide constitutionally adequate medical care, mental healthcare, dental care, and eye care to persons in custody of the department. The inmates asked the court to order Corrections to develop a plan “to eliminate the substantial harm the prisoners suffer due to inadequate medical care, mental healthcare, dental care, and eye care.”

Judge Manglona dismissed the lawsuit of the 14 inmates on Aug. 22, 2019 but retained jurisdiction for enforcing the terms of the settlement.

As part of the settlement agreement, (1) Corrections agreed to hire a doctor to treat Shoiter’s knee and shoulder pain, (2) provide continuing dental care including dentures, (3) schedule an eye examination within 60 days and provide any prescribed eye treatment, (4) dispense adequate medication on a regular and timely basis, and (5) give inmates prompt access to an on-site mental health professional.

In his latest complaint, Shoiter was represented by attorney Michael Dotts who, in an email to Variety, stated, “Inmates have a right to medical care. If inmates are denied medical care, but think that if they file a lawsuit it will just be dismissed, they may not file cases.”

Dotts said, “Filing cases in federal court is not to be done lightly. Inmates should follow the internal grievance procedures at [Corrections] first if possible. But if an inmate has their rights violated and the grievance procedures do not work, they should not be afraid, or hesitate, to file a case in court.

Representing Corrections and its former and current officials were Assistant Attorneys General Leslie Healer, Keisha Blaise, J. Robert Glass, Jr. and Abbi Novotny.

Reporter

Bryan Manabat studied criminal justice at Northern Marianas College. He covers the community, tourism, business, police and court beats.

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