GLEN - A sex offender has filed a federal lawsuit against the Montgomery County sheriff and jail administrator, claiming his confinement in protective custody is violating his civil rights.
The inmate, Gary F. LaRock Jr., filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Utica, accusing Sheriff Michael Amato and Jail Administrator Mike Franco of improperly confining him and denying his appeals to be let into the general population, where he says he could interact with other inmates, watch television, take part in academic or vocational programs or go outside for recreation.
He is seeking $1.5 million each from Amato and Franco, whose name repeatedly is spelled "Franko" in the lawsuit.
LaRock, 34, is a level-two sex offender who was convicted of raping a 15-year-old in 2005.
Montgomery County Undersheriff Jeffery Smith, the department's spokesman, said LaRock was in jail after being arrested in Amsterdam for failing to register a change of address. He also was jailed in Essex County in 2010 and Clinton County in 2011 on the same charge, according to police reports.
Smith said he wasn't aware of the lawsuit and said Amato and Franco had not been served with copies. Amato declined comment today.
An Administrative Segregation notice LaRock filed with the lawsuit indicates jail officials placed LaRock in protective custody "for his own personal safety" on Dec. 20. He says he's confined to his cell 23 hours a day. An hour of recreation time includes 15 minutes to shower and 15 minutes to use the telephone. He said being in protective custody does not allow him to consult his attorney.
He said he has been harassed by other inmates because "all [protective custody] inmates are deemed sex offenders per jail policies." But he said in his January letter to Franco that he didn't expect any problems as part of the general population.
"I have been to prison and other county jails and never had a problem with anyone."
Smith said the department's duty is "to keep the inmates as safe as we possibly can." He said the department won't discuss where an inmate is housed or give a reason "for the safety and security of the facility."
The jail is facing two other civil-rights suits filed since 2011.
The mother of an inmate who died because she says jail officials and doctors ignored her son's sinus infection sued the jail and doctors in January. The trial is scheduled for March 2013. In October, the jail was sued by the family of an inmate who died after falling out of a moving transport van. The accident occurred during an apparent escape attempt, officials said. A trial date will be set sometime after February 2013, according to the court docket.