Prison guards cannot invoke skilled immunity after sticking a homicide victim in a cell with the Aryan Brotherhood killer
SACRAMENTO – A year after hearing the arguments, a federal judge gave the green light to legal action alleging negligent prison officials when they placed a man listed as an enemy of the Aryan Brotherhood in a cell with a gang member who stabbed him to death within minutes.
U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley issued a 14-page ruling earlier this month, writing in his order that prison officers were not entitled to qualified immunity if the allegations confirm they placed Rodney DeLong, 28, in a cell with 44- year-old Aryan Brotherhood member Robert Stockton, although DeLong is listed as an enemy of the white supremacist prison gang. The complaint, filed last year, alleges that a guard failed to check the prison’s Strategic Offender Management System (SOMS), which allegedly informed them that the two were incompatible as cell mates.
DeLong, an inmate at High Desert State Prison in Susanville, was repeatedly stabbed within minutes of being placed in the cell with Stockton. The lawsuit, filed by DeLong’s family, alleges that Corrections Officer “J. Carrillo” realized the mistake and went to rectify it, but by that time DeLong was already dead.
“By considering the complainants’ allegations to be true at the pleading stage, a reasonable officer might infer that failure to check SOMS before accommodating Stockton and (DeLong) together would subject (DeLong) to a substantial risk of harm. “Nunley wrote. âBecause the protection of the Eighth Amendment from willful disregard for the health and safety of detainees is an established constitutional rightâ¦ Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity. “
Nunley granted part of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation‘s motion to dismiss, arguing that DeLong’s father failed to file a timely complaint before he was added as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. .
DeLong was stabbed to death in May 2018. At the time he was killed, he had only seven months left for burglary. Stockton, meanwhile, was serving a life sentence after being convicted of the murder of 20-year-old Corning resident Todd Bates in 1995.
Stockton’s name comes up frequently in a massive racketeering case filed in 2019 by the U.S. District Attorney for Eastern California, which targets Aryan Brotherhood leaders and more than a dozen members. The lawsuit, filed in June 2019, alleges that in 2016, Stockton murdered another inmate, Douglas Maynard, on the orders of Aryan Brotherhood member Jason âJakeâ Corbett, because Maynard owed the gang drug debt.
At a 2019 parole hearing, Stockton denied any involvement with the Aryan Brotherhood, telling council his validation as an active gang member was “only in name.” Since DeLong’s murder, Stockton has been transferred to California State Prison in Sacramento, records show.