A federal judge referred the Washington, DC, jail to the Department of Justice on Wednesday for potential civil rights violations after the jail failed to get treatment for a US Capitol rioter who needs surgery.
Warden Wanda Patten and Department of Corrections Director Quincy Booth were also held in civil contempt for failing to turn over medical records for the defendant, Christopher Worrell.
“It is more than just inept and bureaucratic shuffling of papers,” said District Judge Royce Lamberth. “I find that the civil rights of the defendant have been abridged. I don’t know if this is because he is a January 6 defendant or not.”
Lamberth said that he would refer the case to the attorney general to see whether the Department of Corrections is “violating the civil rights of January 6 defendants.”
Worrell has been indicted on six charges related to his conduct on January 6, when he allegedly marched with the Proud Boys extremist group to the Capitol. Worrell, who was wearing tactical gear and a radio earpiece, then allegedly used pepper spray to assault police officers. He has pleaded not guilty.
A number of Capitol riot defendants have complained about what they say are unsanitary or unsafe conditions in the DC jail. In previous hearings, some judges have said they are working with the jail to try and address these complaints, and have expressed their frustration as imprisoned defendants raise access issues.
But Lamberth’s contempt ruling on Wednesday takes any complaints to a new level, with a federal judge implying a January 6 defendant in DC jail custody was “not getting proper treatment.”
Worrell has had a series of medical issues while in jail and access to health care has been a recurring fight in court. According to court records, Worrell needs surgery for a broken hand, is diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and at one point contracted Covid-19 at the jail.
An attorney for the jail acknowledged the slow progress of Worrell’s treatment, which he attributed to a miscommunication. But the paperwork was turned over before the hearing on Wednesday, he said, and he insisted that Worrell has been receiving medical care for his cancer and pain management for his broken hand while in custody.
This story has been updated with additional details.