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Man alleges prison guard abuse for burping

Feb. 9, 2010 at 2:09 PM

ROANOKE, Va., Feb. 9 (UPI) -- A Virginia man has sued jail officials in federal court for allegedly beating him for burping while he was incarcerated, court records show.

Thomas Scott Vandegrift, 24, of Roanoke, said that his acid reflux-related burping caused Roanoke city sheriff's deputies to twist his arms behind his back, handcuff him, force him to the ground and beat him, the Roanoke (Va.) Times reported Tuesday.

Officers allegedly denied Vandegrift medical care, but after he was released, he was treated at a hospital for abrasions to his ear and side and for wrist and arm strains, the newspaper reported.

Vandegrift, who at the time was a Virginia Tech student, was jailed in 2008 on a drunken driving charge, the Times reported.

The lawsuit said the beating was part of "an institutionalized practice" of deputies' abuse, which allegedly was covered up by Sheriff Octavia Johnson.

Brandon Young, one of the deputies named as a defendant in the lawsuit, is also named in another suit for similar alleged abuses, the newspaper said.

Both complaints allege conspiracy to violate civil rights, assault and battery and excessive force, and ask $6 million from each from the defendants.

A trial date is set for May.

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