Cop killer files federal complaint against Pa. hospital
Inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal claims his rights are being violated
Bob Kalinowski and Jacob Seibel
The Citizens' Voice
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal claims his rights are being violated.
The notorious prison inmate, currently hospitalized at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville for treatment of a rash spreading across his body, has filed a federal complaint against the hospital, claiming the facility is not letting him have visits or contact with anyone.
Lawyers for Abu-Jamal — serving life in prison for murdering a Philadelphia police officer in 1981 — say he was not allowed any outside contact for days until Monday morning when he was finally allowed a 15-minute phone call with his wife just before the complaint was filed.
They claim John Kerestes, superintendent of Abu-Jamal’s assigned prison, State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy, has the power to allow him phone calls and visitors, but the Department of Corrections claims Geisinger has a no communication policy for prisoners in it custody. Kerestes is also named as a defendant.
“Neither the (Department of Corrections) nor Geisinger Medical Center have provided any justification for the total prohibition on communications with plaintiff Abu-Jamal,” according to the federal complaint filed Monday.
Abu-Jamal filed a preliminary injunction and restraining order directing Geisinger Medical Center to permit him to visit with his attorneys Bret Grote, of Abolitionist Law Center in Pittsburgh, and Robert Boyle, a private attorney based in New York, while he is at Geisinger. He also wants the court to permit him to visit with his family while at the medical facility.
Attorneys for Abu-Jamal say the failure to allow Abu-Jamal to meet with his attorneys violates his Fifth and 14th amendment rights to “access to the courts." The communication and visitation prohibition also denies his lawyers and family information about what treatment Abu-Jamal is receiving, attorneys claim.
The injunction asks a federal judge to issue an order to immediately allow Abu-Jamal’s lawyers and wife, Wadiya Jamal, who is authorized by the DOC as the person to obtain her husband’s medical records, to visit him in the hospital.
Susan Bensinger, a spokeswoman for the DOC, said she would check with the legal department, but the agency doesn't comment on legal matters.
Geisinger spokeswoman Wendy Wilson said she was going to look into the matter, but assured, "regardless of who comes through our doors, they are going to get the best care available.”
Abu-Jamal, 61, who was born Wesley Cook, is a former Black Panther and is serving a life sentence at the prison for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.
Abu-Jamal was originally sentenced to death, but his penalty was overturned. After years of appeals, Philadelphia prosecutors in 2011 dropped their efforts to reinstate the death penalty in his case.
Abu-Jamal’s complaint says he had a variety of health problems in recent months, which include a skin rash of unknown origin covering more than 70 percent of his body, abnormal blood work, and a recent episode of diabetic shock that could have killed him.