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Chinese detainee’s widow wants government kept in lawsuit

Mistreatment at R.I. jail is alleged

By Eric Tucker
Associated Press / November 12, 2009

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PROVIDENCE - The widow of a Chinese immigrant wants the federal government to remain a defendant in her lawsuit over the death of her husband, who was detained at a Rhode Island jail where authorities say he was abused and denied access to appropriate medical care before dying of cancer.

Lawyers for the woman, Lin Li Qu, said federal immigration authorities knew or should have known that her husband was ill and being mistreated at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility. The privately operated jail in Central Falls had contracted with the government to house immigration detainees awaiting deportation.

Hiu Lui “Jason’’ Ng died of advanced-stage liver cancer at Rhode Island Hospital in August 2008. The 34-year-old computer engineer, who lived in New York City before he was taken into custody, was detained for overstaying his visa and spent the last month of his life at Wyatt. The cancer went undiagnosed until just days before his death.

Federal immigration authorities said in a January report that Ng, who had complained about excruciating back pain and being unable to walk, was abused and denied appropriate medical care by staff who taunted him and accused him of feigning illness.

The report said he was dragged screaming down the hallway even though he had a doctor’s note authorizing use of a wheelchair, and that his health needs were not properly communicated.

Ng’s widow sued the detention center, staff members there, as well as the government, who she says ignored Ng’s constitutional rights. But the federal government has asked to be dismissed from the lawsuit, saying it was not responsible for the actions of Wyatt staffers since they were contractors and not government employees.

Lawyers for Ng’s widow said in court papers Tuesday that the government should remain in the suit.

They allege that federal immigration and homeland security employees failed to act despite being notified that Ng was not receiving proper care, failed to promptly determine whether he was appropriately detained, and ordered him to be transported to and from Hartford, Conn., while acting with “deliberate indifference’’ to his medical condition.

Officials at Wyatt have altered their policies and disciplined several employees in Ng’s case, including firing some, and several board members have also been replaced.

Last December, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed all 153 of its immigration detainees from Wyatt and ended its contract with the facility. Wyatt continues to hold federal detainees awaiting trial or being transferred between facilities.

Wyatt spokesman Bill Fischer declined to comment on the lawsuit’s allegations yesterday.

A judge will later decide whether to dismiss the government from the case.