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Lisa Loving of The Skanner News
Published: 14 June 2012

A former Columbia County jail inmate whose eye was gouged out during a 2010 jailhouse attack has brought a lawsuit against Columbia County; Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson, Sheriff's Deputies Derek Hibbs and Ryan Scholl; Emanuel Hospital; and Metro West Ambulance.

An attorney for Ray Batista, a local resident of Puerto Rican heritage who had been a career construction contractor, said he is now legally blind in his left eye.

Batista had been serving a 20-day sentence at Columbia County Jail rather than paying a big fine for a hunting-related gun violation. The story was reported by The Skanner News just after the attack, which was June 7, 2010.

The lawsuit alleges cruel and unusual punishment as well as negligence on the part of the Columbia County Jail; insufficient jail staffing which led to a six-minute delay in responding to the initial disturbance call; and delayed medical care.

"Columbia County compelled plaintiff to answer questions and complete paperwork prior to treatment and transport to a medical facility, delaying treatment and ultimately contributing to and causing permanent loss of vision," the lawsuit says.

"Plaintiff was first transported to Emanuel Hospital, then to Devers Eye Institute. He had blurry vision for several hours until leaving Emanuel Hospital in his sister Analise Batista's car heading for Devers Eye Institute," the suit says.

"Emanuel called her sister in Beaverton rather than providing emergency transport after hours of hospital 'care.' His vision ceased on the ride to Devers."

The suit also charges that the attackers included a murderer who was held with the general prison population, and a white supremacist.

"The wrongful beating and blinding of plaintiff was a proximate result of the County's negligent hiring, training and supervision of deputies Hibbs and Scholl," the lawsuit says.

"The wrongful beating of plaintiff by above-named defendants was a proximate result of the named officials' negligence in failing to timely and expeditiously protect plaintiff from attack, and or minimize injury, the negligent housing of a murder[er] in the general population and the housing of white supremacists in the general population."

The lawsuit claims $75,000 in pain, suffering and medical expenses and $15,000 for the cost of a glass eye.

Ashley Wade Siclovan

The case was extensively investigated by a Washington County Sheriffs Department detective who turned in a 30-page report, but as yet no charges have been filed against the two known assailants, Ashley Wade Siclovan and Scott David Lavelle.

A spokeswoman from the Columbia County District Attorney's office, said the case remains unresolved.

"All I can tell you is it's still open, so if there ever comes a time that there's enough evidence (as with any potential case) to charge a crime with, we'd charge," she told The Skanner News in an email.

According to the investigation by Washington County Sheriff's Det. Dave Anderson and Corporal Bill Hopper, Siclovan and Lavelle were cellmates who, Batista and other inmates alleged, dragged Batista into their cell, beat him up and stabbed his eye out with a pencil.

Scott David Lavelle

Siclovan, 37, has a history of drug arrests, and was in jail after leading law enforcement on a high-speed chase from Portland to Sauvie Island.

Lavelle, 19, was waiting trial for attempted murder after a 2009 shooting near Clatskanie.

The investigation found that several factors stymied the Columbia County deputies' attempts to figure out what happened in the cell -- many of which were traceable to the fact that so few deputies were assigned to guard so many inmates. The lawsuit claims only two guards were assigned to 180 prisoners.

It took six minutes for a guard to arrive and break up the fight; when the first officer arrived, he ordered all the inmates to their cells – but in this case, Siclovan and Lavelle's cell was the crime scene, giving them the opportunity to get rid of any evidence, including the stabbing weapon. Assumed to be a pencil, it was never recovered.

Siclovan himself openly admitted that he flushed evidence of the assault down the cell's toilet. Without being prompted -- and Anderson points out before any mention of stabbing injuries -- Siclovan repeatedly denied stabbing Batista.

In interviews, Siclovan quickly established a pattern of erratic and contradictory claims. Throughout, he insisted that he "used to be" a white supremacist but that he isn't anymore, despite a series of racial outbursts against Batista during Anderson's investigation and numerous tattoos associated with neo-Nazism.

Deputy Scholl's report on the incident included details of a wound he observed on Siclovan's hand immediately after the incident.

"He noticed a red mark, with a dark spot in the middle, on the fatty part of his right hand," Anderson's report says. "Deputy Scholl said he observed Inmate Siclovan trying to rub the mark but it didn't go away.

"Later Deputy Scholl looked at Inmate Siclovan's hand and noticed the red mark now appeared to be turning into a bruise," Anderson wrote.

Anderson's report indicates that his attempts to interview inmates in C-Pod, where the incident occurred, were complicated by their fear of Siclovan – whom some said "ran" the unit.

Ultimately, Anderson arranged for each inmate to be interviewed privately after being called out of their cells of other reasons, such as invented medical exams. Almost all appear to have been interviewed more than once for the investigation.

Through many pages of testimony, many of the inmates questioned by Anderson eventually admitted that Siclovan was a violent racist inside the jail; Siclovan's in-jail disciplinary record showed that "another inmate was so scared of Inmate Siclovan that he threatened to injure himself if not moved from Siclovan's Pod."

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