An appeals court has upheld a $372,000 verdict for a former South Carolina warden who claimed he was fired when he refused to go along with his bosses' criticism of security after a prison riot, court records show.
The decision Wednesday by the South Carolina Court of Appeals is the second such award upheld for wardens involved in the Oct. 29, 2003, riot at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville. A group of prisoners armed with homemade knives held two guards hostage for five hours at the maximum-security facility. The standoff eventually ended peacefully when officials met the inmates' demands by sending a television reporter inside the prison to listen to their complaints.
Henry Pridgen, an associate warden at the prison, accused top officials at the state Corrections Department of conspiring to have him fired because he wouldn't go along with their disapproval of the way the riot was handled. Following the riot, the prison agency's former inspector general, Charlie Sheppard, and operations director Bob Ward, criticized a security supervisor and wanted Pridgen to sign off on their accusations, according to Pridgen's attorney.
Pridgen refused and was temporarily transferred to another prison before he was fired in May 2004, according to his attorney. Pridgen sued Sheppard, Ward and another official in 2005, and a Lexington County jury awarded him $372,000 after a nine-day trial in 2008.
In its Wednesday ruling, the state appeals court agreed with Pridgen that the trial judge had appropriately dismissed the prisons officials' arguments that they had acted within the scope of their jobs and should be entitled to immunity.