Widow of sex offender killed in prison paid $100,000 to settle claim

Posted May 08, 2014, at 10:25 a.m.
Last modified May 08, 2014, at 9:58 p.m.
Sheldon Weinstein
Maine Department of Public Safety
Sheldon Weinstein
John Thibeault
John Thibeault

WARREN, Maine — The widow of a 64-year-old man, who was killed at the Maine State Prison while serving a sentence for sexually assaulting a child, has been paid $100,000 to settle her claim against the state.

Janet Weinstein originally notified the state that she intended to seek more than $1 million in damages for the April 2009 beating that resulted in the death of her husband, Sheldon Weinstein.

The settlement agreement, which was signed on Feb. 20, wasn’t released until this week by the Maine Department of Corrections after the BDN requested the terms. The money comes from the state’s risk management fund, according to Scott Fish, director of special projects for the department.

In the agreement, the state, the Maine Department of Corrections and Corizon Inc. (formerly known as Correctional Medical Services Inc.) all deny liability in connection with Weinstein’s death.

Janet Weinstein claimed in her notice of intent to sue that “the policymakers within the Maine Department of Corrections were deliberately indifferent to a culture of inmate violence in which jailhouse justice was meted out to inmates like Mr. Weinstein.”

The state had no further comment on the agreement, which requires that all parties not discuss the settlement.

The settlement was signed one month after 34-year-old John E. Thibeault was sentenced in January to eight years in prison with all but nine months suspended for aggravated assault in connection with the beating that claimed the life of Weinstein. Thibeault had been at the prison in 2009 but completed his sentence and was later released on bail pending trial on the new charge.

Janet Weinstein criticized the sentence imposed on her husband’s attacker. She said at the January hearing that she was stunned and that nine months was a slap on the wrist. She said she still did not have the answers she sought about her husband’s death and that the sentence provided no justice.

At the January sentencing, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said if the case had gone to trial, three prisoners would have testified that Thibeault and another inmate admitted that they had gone into Weinstein’s cell and struck him repeatedly in the head and torso. One prisoner would have testified that he saw Thibeault and the other inmate speak to a prison guard on duty before going into Weinstein’s cell.

Thibeault and the alleged accomplice told another prisoner after the assault that they had received permission to “beat up the old guy,” according to Zainea. That witness also would have testified that he heard Weinstein screaming in his cell during the assault.

Thibeault also told another prisoner that he had struck Weinstein with three to four body blows because Weinstein was in prison for sexually assaulting a child and “those people did not belong in this world,” Zainea said at the hearing.

Zainea would not comment then on whether the alleged accomplice would be charged. No criminal charges have been filed against anyone else in the case since January.

After the assault, Weinstein was transferred to administrative segregation. He was observed by a nurse on the day of the assault and no visible injuries other than a few bruises could be seen.

But on April 24, four days after the assault, Weinstein was found dead in his cell.

The state medical examiner’s office determined in an autopsy that Weinstein suffered a delayed rupture of his spleen. He also had rib fractures and bruising on his brain. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma.

At the time of his death, Weinstein was serving a two-year sentence on a conviction for one count of gross sexual assault against a child. Because of a broken leg, he had been moved from the Maine Correctional Facility in Windham to the Maine State Prison in Warren eight days before the attack so he could receive more medical care.

After an internal investigation into the attack by the prison, Corrections Officer Joshua Bailey was terminated and Sgt. William Robinson was demoted to correctional officer.

 

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