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A US federal judge has held top officials at the Washington DC Department of Corrections in civil contempt after ruling they violated the civil rights of a US Capitol riot defendant by impeding his access to medical care.
"It is more than just inept and bureaucratic shuffling of papers," US District Judge Royce Lamberth said.
"I find that the civil rights of the defendant have been abridged. I don't know if it's because he is a January 6 defendant or not but I find that this matter should be referred to the attorney general of the United States... for a civil rights investigation."
Lamberth's verbal order came during a court hearing on Wednesday, after the judge previously threatened to hold District of Columbia Department of Corrections Director Quincy Booth and Warden Wanda Patten in contempt for failing to turn over notes from a doctor for defendant Christopher Worrell.
Wednesday marks the first time a judge has issued such an order - which carries no penalty of its own - against the jail over the treatment of January 6 defendants after defence lawyers in other cases have previously complained about poor conditions or treatment at the DC jail.
Worrell, a self-proclaimed member of the Proud Boys group from Florida, is facing numerous criminal charges for his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol including assaulting police and civil disorder.
At least 650 people have been arrested across the US over the unrest, when supporters of Republican then-president Donald Trump stormed the capital building to try to stop Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden's election victory.
Worrell has non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and broke his hand while in custody in May, his lawyer said.
In June, an orthopedic surgeon at a nearby hospital recommended he have surgery to repair it.
Since then, however, Worrell has been unable to get the surgery because the Department of Corrections has not provided the doctor's notes to the US Marshals Service.
The Marshals Service oversees the detention and transportation of all federal inmates, including in cases where they are being housed in local jail facilities such as the DC jail.
But without access to the surgeon's notes, the Marshals Service was unable to approve Worrell's surgery, Lamberth said in court on Wednesday, adding this was why he ordered the notes to be turned over promptly.
A spokesperson for the DC Department of Corrections did not respond to a request for comment.
A Justice Department spokesperson said the referral had been received but declined to comment further.
Worrell has been in custody since his March arrest.
As of October 4, he is one of 37 January 6 defendants detained in the DC jail.
Before Worrell broke his hand, his then-lawyer argued in court that he had not had adequate access to medical treatment for his cancer.
His new lawyer, Alex Stavrou, told Reuters his client was found unconscious with the broken hand on May 16 after what appeared to be a fall possibly tied to his other medical conditions.
"We support the judge's position that the Office of the Attorney General investigate into potential civil rights violations," he said in a statement, adding that Worrell and other January 6 defendants hope Attorney General Merrick Garland will "conduct this inquiry immediately and without prejudice".