Man found beaten in basement of apartment building suing non-profit agency

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — It’s been more than a year since Ralph Carson was found barely alive buried under debris in the basement of his apartment. Now, he’s suing the non-profit who placed his attacker in the building, alleging they didn’t protect or warn the other tenants of the felon’s criminal and mental history.

In Sept. 2015, police found Carson beaten and left for dead in the basement of his Schenectady apartment building.

Carson was wrapped in barbed wire and buried under debris, next to the decaying body of another tenant. Their attacker, Harold Michael Ortiz, was fresh out of prison at the time and had been placed there by Mohawk Opportunities.

Mohawk Opportunities is a housing program which helps people living with mental illness. Carson is now suing that organization, alleging they didn’t properly supervise Ortiz, and did nothing to warn the other tenants of his violent past, which included a second degree murder conviction.

“Nobody knew anything about him besides that he had moved in,” said Attorney E. Robert Keach. “He did move in under weird circumstances. He never had electricity turned on. He moved in before a lease was executed with the landlord.”

Ortiz moved in to 1330 Union Street less than two weeks before the attacks. He showed many warning signs that were ignored by his caseworker, according to the lawsuit.

“They [Mohawk caseworkers] had a special relationship with Mr. Ortiz and because of that relationship, they had an obligation to protect the community from someone who is known to have violent tendencies and a history of mental illness,” Keach said.

Executive Director of Mohawk Opportunities says he’s not in a position to comment because he hasn’t seen the lawsuit, and he wouldn’t comment on how the program decides where to place individuals.

The lawsuit says all warning signs were ignored.

“I don’t know how Mr. Carson was able to endure this,” Keach said. “You use the term of art. It’s a fate worse than death. To some extent, it is a fate worse than death.”

The suit also says at least one Mohawk employee was fired as a result of “actions involving Mr. Ortiz.”

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