I recently received a letter from Martin Gottesfeld following the publication of the piece I wrote pertaining to his allegations against FCI Terre Haute’s Communications Management Unit (CMU), the secretive prison where he is being held.
With certain details understood, and looking to the postmark, the letter appears to have been written on or about January 8.
In the letter, Gottesfeld makes more allegations about what’s going on inside the prison, including that he is possibly going to be force fed due to his ongoing hunger strike. Gottesfeld also includes numerous names of the individuals with whom he is allegedly interacting. For purposes of this piece, any names that weren’t already published in my prior piece will be omitted.
Prior to reading this latest piece, it would behoove readers to check out my previous article in which Gottesfeld alleges vile conditions inside the Terre Haute prison, including “toxic” water.
Now I know how Justina must’ve felt. Against my will, the Indiana MLT [possibly medical laboratory technician] puts her needle in my arm and takes my blood. Her name may be [omitted], but I cannot say.
The Indiana RNs have me chained and put in two sets of handcuffs to do things to my body without my consent. The first one of them threatens me with violence if I don’t comply. Their names may be [omitted], but again, I cannot say.
They may work for Indiana medical doctor [omitted] and soon [omitted] may order them to strap down my limbs and head, shove a tube up my nose and down my throat and force-feed me as a result of my protected speech, yet again though, I cannot say.
They ignore my requests for an Indiana Health Care Proxy and don’t notify my emergency contacts because there is no emergency to justify what they’re doing and I don’t think they want their actions known. They’ve pushed my blood pressure from normal to 175/115, shackling my body and violating me.
I haven’t eaten in 30 days and I’ve lost 30 pounds – it’s the only way I feel I can resist what they’re doing since they won’t let me call the court and my mail to federal Judge Paul G. Gardephe doesn’t make it onto the docket anymore.
I had just reached out to Religious Freedom Attorney Brandon Sample – whom they seem to fear – when I believe DOJ Attorney Alexander J. Hogan, advisor [omitted], and case manager Rebekka Eisele had me put in solitary confinement without my case files or a desk on which to write. I believe they didn’t like what I was about to file.
A lieutenant here called a team of thugs dressed in riot gear to my cell where I asserted my Miranda rights and asked for an attorney. The lieutenant then tried to punish me further for asserting my right to an attorney. The lieutenant’s name may be [omitted].
The warden personally green-lit the team. His name may be [omitted]. I feel that the warden and the captain are trying to make my life increasingly miserable in order to bully me into silence. The captain ordered more chains and that my cell be searched three times per day even though I almost never leave between the searches, and the searches are timed so that I cannot get eight hours of sleep at night. I feel that the captain’s name may be [omitted]. I wonder if they’re planning to plant something in my cell. Three times per day seems excessive.
The facility should answer a FOIA for the first names of its staff.
I don’t want to leave without exposing this place or voiceless others here will continue suffering like Justina did, but I can’t tell President Trump either because of 28C.F. R § 504.203. I can’t write, “Please help,” because they may punish me.
I asked for an attorney again. Then a CO stole two of the pens that I bought from the prison. His name may be [omitted]. He may be the one who first escalated things, [and] his retaliation may be unconstitutional.
It must be stressed that claims made by Gottesfeld cannot be independently verified. I reached out to FCI Terre Haute for comment twice by email, but as of publication, I have not received a reply. I also called the prison, but my calls went unanswered.
When Gottesfeld speaks of “Justina,” he is referencing Justina Pelletier, the young teenage girl who was allegedly medically kidnapped by Boston Children’s Hospital. When the Pelletier case was ongoing, Gottesfeld reportedly initiated a DDoS campaign against the hospital in order to draw attention to the alleged medical kidnapping.
Gottesfeld was tried and found guilty of conspiracy to intentionally damage a protected computer in violation of 18 U.S. Code § 371, and intentional damage to protected computers in violation of 18 U.S. Code § 1030 (a)(5)(A), and sentenced to prison.
He eventually landed in FCI Terre Haute’s Communications Management Unit (CMU), which is a secretive prison within the larger prison body in Terre Haute, Indiana.
There are only two known Communications Management Units in the United States – one in Terre Haute, and the other in Marion, Illinois. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), these special prison units reportedly house “dangerous terrorists and other high-risk inmates,” the vast majority of whom are Muslim.
The inmates in these secretive CMUs are closely monitored, and have restricted access to computers. Their communication with the outside world, even family, is severely limited, and sometimes nonexistent, reports CCR.
As for whether or not Gottesfeld’s hunger strike is protected by the Constitution, I consulted UCLA law professor and First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh, who said:
Prisoners have much-reduced constitutional rights – for instance, against searches and seizures, against speech restrictions, and more. There is a general constitutional right to refuse unwanted medical treatment, which might well extend to refusing food; but that too is sharply reduced for prisoners. Because of that, the great majority of courts that have considered force-feeding of hunger-striking inmates have held that such force-feeding is constitutionally permissible, as a means of preserving the inmates’ lives and of preventing disturbances among other prisoners; the D.C. Circuit’s 2014 decision in Aamer v. Obama summarizes the matter well.
In the 2014 Aamer v. Obama opinion, Circuit Judge David S. Tatel writes in part:
…given the government’s own description of its force-feeding protocol — we have no doubt that force-feeding is a painful and invasive process that raises serious ethical concerns.
For petitioners to be entitled to injunctive relief, however, it is not enough for us to say that force-feeding may cause physical pain, invade bodily integrity, or even implicate petitioners’ fundamental individual rights. This is a court of law, not an arbiter of medical ethics, and as such we must view this case through Turner’s restrictive lens. The very premise of Turner is that a “prison regulation [that] impinges on inmates’ constitutional rights” may nonetheless be “valid.” Turner, 482 U.S. at 89, 107 S.Ct. 2254. That is, although “[p]rison walls do not form a barrier separating prison inmates from the protections of the Constitution,” they do substantially change the nature and scope of those constitutional protections, as well as the degree of scrutiny that courts will employ in assessing alleged violations. Id. at 84, 107 S.Ct. 2254; see Price v. Johnston, 334 U.S. 266, 285, 68 S.Ct. 1049, 92 L.Ed. 1356 (1948) (“Lawful incarceration brings about the necessary withdrawal or limitation of many privileges and rights, a retraction justified by the considerations underlying our penal system.”). Thus, even if force-feeding “burdens fundamental rights,” Turner, 482 U.S. at 87, 107 S.Ct. 2254, Turner makes clear that a federal court may step in only if the practice is not “reasonably related to legitimate penological interests,” id. at 89, 107 S.Ct. 2254.
The government has identified two penological interests at stake here: preserving the lives of those in its custody and maintaining security and discipline in the detention facility. As the government emphasizes, many courts have concluded that such interests are legitimate and justify prison officials’ force-feeding of hunger-striking inmates.
Martin Gottesfeld has now filed his first appeal to have his case re-examined, and has retained a layer.
For more information from Gottesfeld’s perspective, you can check out the official FreeMartyG website.