State officials are seeking permission to force-feed a New Jersey inmate who has been on a hunger strike over a housing dispute and claims of civil rights abuses.
William Lecuyer's lawyer Kunal Sharma claims his client hasn't eaten since July, NJ.com reported on Wednesday. Prison doctors have said Lecuyer's diet — which includes water, coffee and occasional meals of broth or protein drinks — endangers his life.
Lecuyer said the constitution allows him to politically protest.
State Superior Court Judge Walter Koprowski, Jr. is expected to hear the case Thursday afternoon in Newark. The judge may decide whether prison doctors can force-feed Lecuyer against his will to keep him alive.
The state Corrections Department and the Attorney General's Office declined to comment, citing the pending legal proceedings.
Attorneys for the state said in court documents that Lecuyer is defiant and is starving himself over a cell assignment. Granting his demands, they said, could set a dangerous precedent.
A letter given to NJ.com by Lecuyer's supporters said he has spent three years in isolation and other inmates have experienced similar treatment.
"Three years in isolation have damaged me more than any physical assault ever could," Lecuyer wrote. "Large groups of people are terror inducing, making an overcrowded prison ... unbearable."
Lecuyer filed a federal civil rights lawsuit last summer, accusing two corrections officers of violating prison policy in 2013 by keeping him waiting too long to take a urine sample. He said by the time they came back he had already relieved himself. He accused the officers of then lying in official statements about the incident to justify his four-month punishment.
The Department of Correction eventually gave him a new hearing if he promised to end a hunger strike he'd been on. His lawyer said Lecuyer was found not guilty of the drug test charges. The officers were not punished.