FARMINGTON — A federal court has ruled that a jury will decide if corrections officers at Franklin County jail violated the rights of two former inmates who claim their food was poisoned as a prank.

After dismissing certain aspects of the lawsuit this summer, U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk scheduled jury selection and the trial for Monday, Nov. 14, in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

Robert Ayer of New Sharon and Stephen Wing of Industry made the accusations based on an alleged incident in 2008, when they were inmates at the jail in Farmington.

Jail employees are accused of intentionally contaminating veal patties and spaghetti with pepper spray, mace or some other noxious chemical, according to the lawsuit, and then laughing at the inmates when they became sick after eating the tainted food.

The complaint also alleges that jail officials denied the inmates’ repeated requests for medical attention, and threatened and harassed the men until their release. Both men are seeking compensation for damages related to the incident, according to the lawsuit.

Attorney Jonathan Hull, representing both men, said Monday that the corrections officers claim to have used “hot mustard” from a Chinese restaurant, as opposed to the pepper spray claim by his clients. He declined to comment on other details of the case.

The initial lawsuit named eight jail employees, including Sheriff Dennis C. Pike, as well as the county administrative unit as defendants.

The federal court dismissed the complaints against all but two of the jail employees, leaving two female corrections officers named as defendants in the jury trial, according to Peter Marchesi, attorney for the county.

The court decided to proceed with the trial for complaints against Samantha Wyman and Nicole Quick, the two jail employees that the lawsuit claims had the most direct involvement in the incident, he said Monday.

Although the county administrative unit is no longer a defendant, the local government entity is still active in the case because the incident happened in a county facility, Marchesi said.

Marchesi didn’t have details about whether the women or the county taxpayers would be responsible to pay compensation for damages. The county government’s insurance policy would likely still pay, with the coverage depending on the circumstances of any monetary damages awarded by the court, he said.

Pike said Monday that Quick remains employed as a corrections officer at the jail, but Wyman left in September 2008. He declined to give other details.

Ayer was serving a sentence related to two charges of assault and one charge of stalking, according to county jail officials, who didn’t have his age. Wing, 33, was jailed on an aggravated criminal trespassing charge, officials said.

According to the lawsuit, Ayers and Wing were threatened and harassed by the corrections officers until Ayers was released in March 2009 and Wing released September 2008.

The trial comes more than a year after the former inmates filed in Franklin County Superior Court to pursue separate lawsuits, which were consolidated and moved to the federal court due to the alleged violation of certain rights protected by the U.S. Constitution, Marchesi said.

The lawsuit addresses federal statutes that deal with cruel and unusual punishment and civil rights, he said.

David Robinson — 861-9287
drobinson@centralmaine.com