Wounded prison captain sues cell phone providers over inmate-ordered attempt on his life

A former corrections captain who was shot six times in an inmate-ordered hit attempt is suing cell phone providers for allegedly failing to block illegal calls from the Lee County prison where the execution plan was hatched.

Robert Johnson and his wife, Mary, are suing some 20 cell phone companies and cellular tower owners in connection with the March 5, 2010 attack at his home.

The couple, who are represented by Hampton County attorney John E. Parker, are seeking unspecified damages.

Prison officials have repeatedly used Johnson’s case to illustrate the need for technology to block calls from contraband cell phones that are smuggled into corrections facilities for inmates to use. Federal law, however, currently prevents the prisons from taking action to block the cell signals.

An inmate inside Lee Correctional Institute in Bishopville is accused of using a smuggled cell phone to order a hit on Johnson because he was cracking down on contraband at the prison, according to the lawsuit.

As Johnson was preparing for work, a gunman broke down the front door of Johnson’s home and shot him six times in the chest and stomach in front of his wife, the lawsuit states.

The attack has left Johnson in pain and mental anguish, causing him to lose pay and his enjoyment of life, the lawsuit states. His wife also suffered mental shock and suffering, the suit states.

The lawsuit argues that the cell providers had the ability and a duty to block calls from inside the prison but chose not to do so, instead deciding “to facilitate this illegal activity.”

The cell providers could not immediately be reached for comment this morning.

They are: American Towers, LLC; Farmer Telephone Cooperative Inc.; Cellco Telephone Company of the Southeast, LLC; Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless; Sprint Cellular Company of South Carolina; Sprint Communications Company, L.P.; Alltel Communications, LLC; Alltel Communications, Inc.; Alltel Mobile Communications of South Carolina, Inc.; T-Mobile USA Tower LLC; T-Mobile USA, Inc.; ATT&T Inc.; AT&T Mobility LLC; Verizon Wireless, LLC; Verizon Wireless Service LLC; Verizon Wireless of the East, L.P.; and Tracfone Wireless, Inc.

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