Relying on a just-released court transcript, the Rhode Island ACLU charged today that officials at the Wyatt Detention Center were deliberately misleading in their public pronouncements on the death of Hiu Lui Ng, a Chinese national, at their facility in August. The transcript, the ACLU said, also lends credence to the view that Ng, near death and experiencing great pain, was dragged from his cell at Wyatt by immigration officials and forced to travel to Hartford, Connecticut in reprisal for a petition filed on July 29th by family lawyers seeking his release from prison because of his severe medical condition. Mr. Ng died a week later, on August 6th, as the result of complications from advanced cancer; he was also found to have a broken spine. The RI ACLU is preparing a civil suit on behalf of the family.

At a hearing held before U.S. District Judge William Smith on July 31, 2008, less than a week before Ng’s death, the transcript reveals that the attorney for the federal government claimed that Ng was getting “more than adequate medical care” and that “any suggestion that he hasn’t received adequate medical care is really stretching it.” At the same time, the government attorney also stated, just days before Ng died of advanced cancer, that Wyatt’s medical records revealed only that Ng had “lower back strain and sciatica.” This stands in direct contradiction to a statement that Wyatt officials issued shortly after Ng’s death, in which they claimed that Ng’s “diagnoses came as the direct result of medical care and special diagnostic evaluation recommended by the facility’s medical staff.”

The transcript further reveals that federal officials had no logical answer as to why, just one day after attorneys filed the lawsuit seeking his release from Wyatt, he was dragged from his cell and transported to Hartford, Connecticut for a day. The following colloquy on that issue took place at the in-chambers court hearing:

THE COURT: I don’t get it. Nobody knows why he was in Hartford, why he was taken to Hartford?
[GOV’T ATTORNEY]: …My understanding is that he was taken to Hartford so they could afford him a better opportunity to speak by telephone with his counsel in private . . .
THE COURT: Why would they take him from Wyatt to Hartford to talk to attorneys and talk to family members? That doesn’t make any sense. All the facilities are available at Wyatt.
[GOV’T ATTORNEY]: I’m not sure, your Honor. I don’t know exactly why that transpired that way.

RI ACLU volunteer attorney Jack McConnell, from the law firm of Motley Rice, LLC, has also been having difficulty getting records of Mr. Ng’s stay at the facility from Wyatt officials. A court hearing to compel disclosure is scheduled in R.I. Superior Court for December 10th.  McConnell said today: “We are seeking justice for the unfortunate death of Mr. Ng, yet we are being stymied by Wyatt at getting to the truth.”