Prison Guard Claims Government is Sanitizing his Brutalization

Louis Pepe was a federal prison guard at MCC Manhattan in 2000 when he was brutally attacked, stabbed in the eye, and more by two of the defendants in the case involving the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. One of the attackers, Mamdouh Mahmud Salimm, was reputed to be an associate of Osama bin Laden.

Salimn gets sentenced Monday and Pepe plans to be there. He is outraged that Salimn will only get 17 to 21 years for the assault, even though he is facing trial and a possible life sentence on conspiracy charges for the 1998 attack. We can't say we blame him, if you read the account of the attack, it sounds horrific.

But what's up with Pepe's claim that the U.S. Government has downplayed the attack and cast him in a role that suggests he was careless in allowing the attack to happen? This is one sad story, here's some of it.

In the interview Sunday with The Associated Press, Pepe sat in his wheelchair in a small room in the Queens house where he lives with his parents. Pepe said the government and Salim have combined to sanitize what happened on Nov. 1, 2000, portraying the assault as quick and almost entirely Salim's doing after the guard failed to handcuff the inmates.

Pepe said he will tell the judge how he properly handcuffed the inmates before they slipped free, blinded him with hot sauce, beat him repeatedly and even tried to rape him before stabbing him to get his keys in a bid to free other suspected terrorists. "Both of them did it, not just one," Pepe said excitedly, his right eye wide open and a piece of gauze resting in the socket where the left eye used to be....Pepe said the attack lasted an hour, rather than the 20 minutes that prison authorities maintain it took for help to arrive from less-isolated parts of Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Pepe described how he resisted throughout the attack, even giving the inmates his house keys when they demanded his prison keys. He said the inmates scrawled the sign of the cross in his blood on his chest before they left him for dead. In the end, Pepe walked out of the cellblock, the sharpened comb still stuck in his eye. He said Sunday that he had warned the government before the attack not to let terrorism inmates bunk together or be issued sturdy plastic combs and condiments such as hot sauce and honey.

....For more than two years, Pepe was hospitalized. He suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed, along with pneumonia, a collapsed lung, seizures, infections, a blood clot and high fevers. He underwent brain surgery and spent three weeks in a coma. He still lives in the modest home where he once took care of his ailing parents, who now take care of him, despite their ages of 79 and 80. "We want his name cleared," said Pepe's father, Frank Pepe, emphasizing the family's discontent with the government's level of support for his son. "We want the house fixed. I'm not going to live forever. I want him set up so he's comfortable."

Pepe sleeps on a small donated bed and maneuvers his wheelchair across worn floors. Almost no one visits him. Pepe said his pain, from the collapsed left side of his head to the stroke-damaged legs, is chronic. "Every day it hurts so much that it feels like I'm going to be dead," he said.

We hope the truth eventually comes out. If the Government is shirking its responsibility to adequately care for Pepe, it's shameful.

Update: Salimn got 32 years for the stabbing.

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