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Sherburne County Faces $30 Million Lawsuit in Death of Inmate

Press Release
February 2007

MINNEAPOLIS---The beating death of a man confined to the Sherburne County Jail on a minor traffic violation has resulted in a $30 million wrongful death lawsuit against Sherburne County.

The lawsuit, filed today in US District Court, seeks $10 million in compensatory and $20 million in punitive damages in the death of Carl Moyle, who was beaten to death by a fellow inmate known by Sherburne County law enforcement officials to be a high risk offender.

“What occurred was a nightmare,” said Jim Schwebel, the Minneapolis attorney representing the trustee for Moyle's 2 year old son. “Because of the actions of Sherburne County, Gavin Moyle will grow up without ever knowing his father.”

Moyle, 28, of Elk River, was stopped in his brother's pickup truck while driving to work on August 8, 2006 by the Elk River Police Department for driving with a loud exhaust and cracked windshield. He was cited when the proof of insurance was not located in the truck. Moyle was being held at the Sherburne County Jail, and was sleeping in a cell bunk bed when he was attacked with a metal bar by Bruce Christenson, 28.

Christensen was a state prison inmate who had been transferred to the Sherburne County Jail for a hearing relating to an earlier assault to another inmate at the Minnesota State prison in St. Cloud. Christensen had been transferred to the Sherburne County Jail from the maximum security correctional facility at, Oak Park Heights.

“It's basic jail procedure to segregate known violent criminals from the rest of the jail population,” said Schwebel. “Sherburne County had that duty. Its reckless disregard for the safety of its nonviolent inmates was the direct cause of Carl Moyle being bludgeoned to death.”

The complaint filed today includes the following details:

  • Bruce Christenson in April 2006 attacked a fellow inmate at the St. Cloud prison, slashing a six inch wound in the back of his neck with a razor blade, and punching and kicking the man in the head and neck until Christenson could be restrained. He was charged with second degree felonious assault of another prisoner with a dangerous weapon. Christenson was at St. Cloud serving a nine year prison sentence for aggravated robbery.
  • Sherburne County jail employees classified Christenson as a low risk inmate, despite knowing he was being transferred from Oak Park Heights, Minnesota's maximum security prison, and knowing that he was being brought in on a charge of Felony, Second Degree Assault with a Dangerous Weapon.
  • Sherburne County jail employees placed Christenson in a unit that was open and not segregated, and knew that nine other low risk detainees were in the unit, including Carl Moyle.
  • The State of Minnesota Department of Corrections, determined that the Sherburne County Jail had improperly classified Bruce Christenson as “low risk”.

“Sherburne County locked Carl Moyle up with an extremely violent criminal,” said Schwebel. “We hope Sherburne County will accept responsibility for this tragedy. That is the purpose of this wrongful death lawsuit.”