Torment in Indiana prisons: The abuse, the lawsuit, the death of Phillip Littler

Wabash-Valley-Correctional-Facility-Assistant-Warden-Frank-Littlejohn-and-wife-Teresa-Littlejohn, Torment in Indiana prisons: The abuse, the lawsuit, the death of Phillip Littler, Behind Enemy Lines
Wabash Valley Correctional Facility Assistant Warden Frank Littlejohn pictured with his wife Teresa Littlejohn, who serves as public information officer at the facility.

by Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson

I want you to wrap your mind around this story if you will; or, rather, if you can.

Defenseless, shot in the face and beaten

A prisoner – a small-framed man about 150 pounds and around 5-feet-6-inches – is inside a locked shower and, according to prison officials, refuses to submit to a strip search. His name is Phillip Littler.

Assistant Warden Frank Littlejohn tells the ranking guard they should shoot Phillip in the face at point-blank range with a pepper ball gun. The guard laughs and says she loves the idea.

Phillip is then shot in the face in this exact fashion. His nose is shattered, but, through a lucky near miss, he doesn’t lose his eyes. The camera, which is supposed by procedure to film all such uses of force, is turned off during this assault.

A team of at least 10 guards in full body armor is then sent into the shower to “extract” the already downed prisoner. They beat him brutally, resulting in a possible broken shoulder blade and extensive additional facial injuries. The camera is activated during this phase of the assault but is deliberately trained on another guard’s body to block footage of Phillip being beaten.

After the attack, a medical “examination” is staged by a nurse, which is required procedure following any use of force by guards. Phillip, who is bleeding profusely from the face, tells the nurse he was shot in the face and beaten – punched and kicked repeatedly – by guards. 

She ignores him, pats away a little of the blood running profusely from his nose, then gives up and sends him on his way, refusing him any further care or examination. On the record, she lies, claiming he refused treatment and responded “Go to hell” when she supposedly offered him care. Although guards deliberately block the camera from filming Phillip, the audio captures him asking the nurse for help and telling her he was shot in the face and beaten.

In response to the lawsuit, prison officials, medical staff and their attorneys – including the state’s attorney general’s office – closed ranks to produce a huge record of sworn affidavits in which they told a litany of lies to cover up what they did in an attempt to get the case dismissed.

I should add that, before being shot, Phillip was repeatedly sprayed with extensive amounts of tear gas inside the locked shower. I have written extensively about the deadly nature and routine abuse of tear gas on U.S. prisoners.[i]

The shooting didn’t end with the round to Phillip’s face. By the guards’ own admissions, he was shot in rapid succession in the head a total of 10 times – until the gun stopped working.

The lawsuit, the lies, the outraged judge

Phillip, a determined and intelligent man, didn’t cave in to his abusers. He fought his way through the prison system’s obstructions and, representing himself, filed a federal lawsuit the next year.

His case, Littler v. Martinez[ii], came before Chief Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson, who proved unusually fair. What came to light as the case unfolded prompted her to bring down the mallet on Phillip’s abusers and their lawyers.

In response to the lawsuit, prison officials, medical staff and their attorneys – including the state’s attorney general’s office – closed ranks to produce a huge record of sworn affidavits in which they told a litany of lies to cover up what they did in an attempt to get the case dismissed.

Judge Stinson was having none of it. As she noted in orders sanctioning the defendants and attorneys for perjury and facilitating these lies, “Only due to the perfect storm of Mr. Littler’s litigation skills and the existence of video evidence was the most egregious misconduct in this case uncovered,” exposing a “litany of false evidence.”

The judge expressed a total loss of trust in the state’s highest law office and prison system. She found Assistant Warden Littlejohn lied when he claimed he had nothing to do with the use of force on Phillip. But emails were produced showing his exchange with the supervising guard where he prompted the shooting of Phillip at point-blank range.

The nurse and guards all lied about their roles, which were also contradicted by video records. These findings and rulings came out in a series of published reports and orders.[iii]

The penalty against P. Hagmeier, the nurse who refused Phillip medical care after he was shot and beaten, was an entry of default judgment, meaning she was found guilty of the wrongdoing charged within the lawsuit. On information and belief, Phillip also prevailed against all the other defendants, and after a four-year court battle won a $150,000 settlement and judgment in 2020. But this was by no means a happy ending.

The tortured death of Phillip Littler

Several outside people who know of Phillip’s ordeal and legal battle didn’t know about the tragedy that followed almost immediately.

At exactly the time he prevailed in his lawsuit, Phillip developed cancer in his mouth and throat. Witnessing prisoners like Kristopher Kanable described his tongue as having swollen so large that it protruded from his mouth – he couldn’t talk or close it, which impaired his ability to eat. His weight fell to around 100 pounds.

Prison officials refused him any care until his cancer progressed to stage four. His final months were blatant torture as the cancer quickly consumed his face. Phillip died around June 2020.

We need to link our captives on the inside with the oppressed communities they come from in a movement to build dual power and revolutionary change against the capitalist, imperialist police state that has us all under siege.

Many prisoners who witnessed and followed Phillip’s struggle believe officials caused his death, both the onset of his cancer and its rapid progression without care.

What tops off this tragedy and exposes the true face of this Amerikan fascist system is that Frank Littlejohn, the man who initiated the sadistic attack on Phillip and was caught and sanctioned in federal court for lying to justify and cover up the abuse and his role in it, is still the assistant warden of the prison where this abuse occurred. Indeed, it’s the very same Wabash Valley Correctional Facility where I’m now confined.

Not just this, but Frank Littlejohn’s wife Teresa Littlejohn is the prison’s public relations officer.

What to do?

Across Amerika, prisons operate in this fashion – as overt fascistic fiefs within an imperialist empire, where their captives are subjected to the arbitrary abuses of their captors and have neither voice nor right to resist.

As the judge in Phillip’s case observed, most prisoners who manage to file lawsuits challenging incidents of abuse are quickly booted out of court by the state’s highest and most powerful law office, using lying defenses just like those tried against Phillip. And lawsuits are no remedy. The few that are “won” are settled – and I’ve previously revealed how settlements actually uphold and preserve the culture of murder and abuse by police and guards.[iv]

What’s needed is an inside-to-outside mass support network organized to expose and challenge prison abuses. We need to link our captives on the inside with the oppressed communities they come from in a movement to build dual power and revolutionary change against the capitalist, imperialist police state that has us all under siege.

Dare to struggle, dare to win! All Power to the People!

Send our brother some love and light: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 264847, Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, P.O. Box 500, Carlisle IN 47838.


[i] Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “Chemical Weapons Used in U.S. Prisons” (2017) http://rashidmod.com/?p=2580

[ii] Littler v. Martinez, et al., Case No: 2:16-cv-00472-JMS-DLP, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Terre Haute Division

[iii] See: Olivia Covington, “Judge Sanctions Lawyer of ex-DOC Nurse in Inmate Abuse Case,” Indiana Lawyer, March 6, 2019; Littler v. Martinez, 2018 U.S. Dist. Lexis 155868 (2018); Littler v. Martinez, 2018 U.S. Dist. Lexis 163985 (2018); Littler v. Martinez, 2019 U.S. Dist. Lexis 34735 (2019); Littler v. Martinez, 2020 U.S. Dist. Lexis 1850 (2020)

[iv] Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “Selling Out in Court: How Settlements Protect Police Abusers” (2020) http://rashidmod.com/?p=2822