A Santa Fe woman is suing the federal government over the beating death of her 72-year-old husband in a California prison after he was convicted on child pornography charges.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, says prison officials are to blame for putting retired Wall Street attorney Robert A. Warren in a communal cell at the Victorville, Calif., prison with another inmate whom they knew was a danger to him.

A judge in February 2011 sentenced Warren to five years in prison. The lawsuit, which also described him as a university instructor, philanthropist and author, says he was killed on Dec. 29, 2011.

In his plea agreement, Warren had admitted to receiving a video clip online of a man sexually assaulting a prepubescent female who was tied up with a rope and to having on his computer 2,621 images and 26 videos depicting child pornography.

Carol H. Warren says in her complaint that a forensic psychologist concluded that Warren was a good candidate for outpatient treatment because he was amendable to treatment, had no history of violence, sexual or otherwise, and was “lacking many of the historic behavior problems that are associated with re-offenders.”

The 72-year-old also had numerous medical and mental health issues, including a cyst in the frontal lobe of his brain which controls an individual’s ability to reason, the complaint states. He also took medications to prevent stroke and walked with a cane.

U.S. District Judge Bruce. D. Black of Albuquerque recommended that Warren be housed in one of two medical facilities for federal inmates with special health needs which also offered sex-offender treatment programs. But the complaint says the Bureau of Prisons ignored its own protocol concerning prisoner placement and instead put Warren in the medium-security prison at Victorville.

He arrived there in June 2011, according to the document, and within 24 hours was brutally attacked by fellow inmates who had learned of his child pornography conviction.

An investigation into that incident “concluded that Mr. Warren’s safety was at risk at Victorville,” the complaint says, and recommend he be transferred. The Bureau of Prisons also ordered that Warren be kept separate from one inmate in particular, Frederick Ashley , who, the complaint alleges, was known to have committed violent assault on multiple sex offenders at Victorville and was the reason many inmate sex offenders requested to be placed in segregated housing.

But the opposite happened, according to the complaint, and Ashley and Warren were placed together in a communal cell not monitored by video cameras.

Ashley, 35, then mounted a “lengthy and brutal attack” on the 72-year-old, the complaint states, strangling him from behind with chains attached to his wrists, then smashing Warren’s head into the concrete and stomping on his head, neck and chest, breaking bones and causing hemorrhaging in surrounding muscles.

Corrections officers initiated an emergency medical response, the complaint says, but efforts to save Warren’s life were unsuccessful.

The lawsuit accuses the federal Bureau of Prisons of negligence resulting in wrongful death.

Warren’s widow seeks an unspecified amount in damages related to pain and suffering, severe emotional distress, loss of consortium, medical expenses, and funeral and burial expenses.

A Bureau of Prisons spokesman declined Thursday to comment on the pending litigation.

Contact Phaedra Haywood at 986-3068 or phaywood@sfnewmexican.com.

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