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Were a lieutenant and a case worker at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison deliberately indifferent to the plight of an inmate facing threats from a drug dealer's followers?

Refusing to dismiss a $500,000 federal suit filed by inmate Brett Danny Shumway, U.S. Magistrate Ronald N. Boyce has ruled that this is a question for a jury to decide. Shumway's suit remains in effect against Lt. Mel Colter, who was housing director in the area where Shumway was held, and case worker Elba Belliston.However, Boyce did grant a summary dismissal of the suit against three other prison officials.

On Dec. 19, 1991, after repeated requests to prison officers that he be moved because he was afraid for his safety or his life, Shumway was stabbed, apparently by fellow inmates. According to a U.S. District Court suit filed in 1992, Shumway needed 150 stitches in one wound and 30 in another.

The incident happened 21/2 years before a fatal stabbing at the same facility in July 1994. Three inmates have been charged with capital murder in that brutal assault, during which Lonnie Blackmon was methodically stabbed 67 times. On Dec. 9, 1991, wrote Boyce, Shumway first complained to prison officials about serious problems with a drug dealer who was about to be sentenced. Afterwards, another inmate asked Shumway if he had "ratted" (informed) on the drug dealer, and other inmates started getting the word that he had.

Later, "Colter said there was nothing they could do until something happened," Boyce wrote, quoting from Shumway's suit. "Plaintiff asked for protective custody.

"The next night as plaintiff was going to the pill line, he was attacked and cut two times on his back with a weapon."

Although Shumway couldn't tell the names of those making threats, "correctional officers cannot avoid their duty to protect simply because an inmate will not or cannot identify the person or persons threatening him." An emergency move to a jail, or other prison sites could have been considered, Boyce added.