The family of Anthony Vidal, who was brutally murdered while incarcerated at Dade Correctional Institution (Dade CI), has settled a civil rights lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections and other individual officers for $350,000. The family was represented by the Florida Justice Institute (FJI), a nonprofit law firm dedicated to safeguarding civil rights in Florida.
The settlement comes six years after Vidal was strangled to death by a prisoner who was mentally disturbed. Vidal died at Dade CI, one of the most violent prisons in the state. Just last month at the same prison, four officers were charged with second-degree murder and aggravated battery of a disabled adult for beating a prisoner to death.
Vidal’s family filed the civil lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections and four former corrections officers, Frederick Lester, Marc Fleurjean, Jeffrey Lamelas, and Julio Monroy. It charged that they had subjected Vidal to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of his constitutional rights.
On March 10, 2016, Dade CI officers placed Tarrin Blue, a prisoner who they knew had a violent history of assault and was mentally disturbed, in the same cell as Vidal. Just hours later, Blue struck Vidal on his head, neck, and chest; fractured his rib; lacerated his spleen; and choked him until he died. During this brutal assault, Vidal and other prisoners repeatedly screamed for help to no avail. Although the sounds of the struggle were captured by security cameras, for nearly ten minutes, no guards came.
This was because the audio monitors in Vidal’s unit had been turned off by guards so they could not hear Vidal’s cries for help, according to Monroy, the former captain at the prison who was on duty at the time of the incident. By the time Dade CI guards and medical staff entered Anthony’s cell, a full twenty minutes after the attack had begun, he was already dead.
The family’s lawsuit also alleged that Dade CI is kept dangerously understaffed, causing unnecessary violence and leading to preventable deaths like Vidal’s.
The case is now settled. Although no amount of money can bring back a deceased loved one, the settlement sends a message that the community will not stand by while Dade CI continues to be dangerously understaffed, facilitating violence and abuse.
The case is Vidal v. Florida Department of Corrections, et al, in the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County (Case No. 2018-029923 CA 01).