Prisoner hit with shovel has case against murderer dismissed

By Juliette Laaka | Jun 21, 2014

Portland — A civil case filed by a 29-year-old inmate who was beaten with a shovel by a fellow prisoner was dismissed by a federal judge June 20.

James E. Brensinger, originally from Hampden before his incarceration, requested $60,000 for pain and suffering and named three defendants in the complaint; the assailant, Guy E. Hunnewell, a prison guard who was not criminally charged, and the Department of Corrections.

Hunnewell pleaded guilty in April to assaulting Brensinger with a shovel and also to beating inmate Guy Powell, 57, to death with a guitar in June 2013.

Hunnewell was sentenced to life in prison by Justice Jeffrey Hjelm. In 1999, Hunnewell was convicted in Somerset Superior Court for killing his former girlfriend. He was sentenced to serve 40 years for her 1997 murder.

Brensinger filed the suit in January, claiming his civil rights were violated when he was beaten with a shovel by Hunnewell while the two men were cleaning their pod. Brensinger claimed the prison and its employees showed indifference to his safety.

In May, Magistrate Judge John C. Nivison recommended the complaint against Hunnewell, the state, and a corrections officer be dismissed for lack of cause. The court ordered Brensinger to show cause as to why the case should not be dismissed for lack of prosecution, as requested by the state, and he failed to do so, said court documents.

The federal case against Hunnewell is recommended to be dismissed because Brensinger did not prove Hunnewell is a state actor, as required under the section he filed the lawsuit under. The court presumed he will take state action against Hunnewell for the assault, but the federal court has no jurisdiction over the assault claim.

The order affirming the recommendation was given by Federal Judge George Z. Singal.

Brensinger pleaded guilty May 28 to assaulting a prison employee and was sentenced to serve nine months in prison after he conceded to the allegation against him. A count of unlawful sexual touching against a female victim was dismissed.

According to the Maine Department of Correction's website, Brensinger's earliest possible release date is November 2017.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jun 21, 2014 16:49

He called a spade a spade.



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Juliette Laaka
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Juliette primarily covers the cops and courts beat for The Courier-Gazette.

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