A former Tucson pediatric ophthalmologist convicted in the killing of a colleague in a murder-for-hire plot is suing the state, saying he's been repeatedly assaulted by other prison inmates.
Lawyers for Bradley Schwartz say their client has suffered permanent injuries, including vision impairment, from the attacks. They filed their lawsuit late Friday in Pima County Superior Court.
The lawsuit, which does not ask for a specific dollar amount, follows a claim Schwartz filed earlier this year seeking $750,000 in compensation for repeated attacks by inmates.
Schwartz, who lives in fear for his life, according to his lawyers, is accusing the Arizona Department of Corrections of negligence. His lawyers say state officials should have known he was in imminent danger of being assaulted by other inmates.
Officials with the Department of Corrections could not be reached for comment Saturday. When Schwartz's claim was filed earlier this year, a state corrections spokesman said the department does not comment on pending litigation. Schwartz's online prison history says he's had three disciplinary infractions, including fighting and possessing a manufactured weapon.
Schwartz, 44, was convicted in May 2006 of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the Oct. 5, 2004, slaying of fellow pediatric eye surgeon Dr. David Brian Stidham. Schwartz was sentenced to life in prison with release possible after 25 years, and his medical license was revoked.
Prosecutors contend that Schwartz paid Ronald Bruce Bigger $10,000 for the slaying because he was angry that Stidham had abandoned their joint practice while Schwartz was in a drug-rehabilitation program.
Stidham ended up with many of Schwartz's patients after Schwartz was indicted on federal drug-fraud charges in September 2002 and Schwartz's medical license was suspended.
Bigger was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in a separate trial in May 2007. He is serving two life sentences without the possibility of release.
The lawsuit filed Friday says Schwartz has been assaulted at least three times while in prison, including one particularly vicious attack last September while he was a prisoner at the state's Rincon Unit in Tucson. In that attack, the lawsuit says, Schwartz suffered multiple facial bone fractures, injuries to his eyes, mental anguish and humiliation.
Schwartz is now in a state prison complex in Buckeye, near Phoenix.
"He's not a big guy, and he's high-profile," said Tucson attorney Rick Gonzales, who is representing Schwartz, along with co-counsel Brick Storts. "It's the Department of Corrections' duty and responsibility to protect the prisoner. The purpose of incarceration is not to be beaten, tortured and permanently disabled."
The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages for Schwartz's pain and suffering and medical expenses, as well as for Schwartz's legal costs and "such other and further relief as this court deems just and proper under the circumstances."