They are some of the most sexually violent predators, convicted of hideous crimes, such as sexually abusing a five-year-old.
Now they want $10 million.
The civil case in Manhattan's federal court pits half a dozen child sex offenders against the former governor of New York, George Pataki, and a slew of former state prison and health officials. The six are suing the officials over a 2005 state government program that was designed to keep child sex offenders off the streets, but was disbanded a year later after a New York court ruled against it.
The plaintiffs were serving their prison sentences for their crimes. But they claim that the program, "The Sexually Violent Predator Initiative," violated their rights by confining them to psychiatric hospitals without a court hearing, just before their sentences were scheduled to be completed.
The lawsuit of lead plaintiff Kenneth Bailey says that "after twelve years behind bars, in the final days of his sentence, [he] was deprived of his freedom and civilly committed to an indefinite sentence in a state-run psychiatric facility. Although the New York State Corrections Law requires that a specific procedure be followed when an inmate is to be confined in a psychiatric facility, those responsible for putting plaintiff there blatantly and deliberately ignored the prescriptions of that law."
Lawyers for Pataki and the other defendants say the sex offenders were treated properly under the state's health law, and given the treatment they needed.
The 55-year-old Bailey "was committed by means of the procedure set out in...the New York Mental Hygiene law...for involuntary care and treatment," says the defendant's response in legal papers. "Certain SVP prisoners were found after examination to meet the standard for involuntary civil commitment."
Bailey was finishing up his time behind bars for his conviction for sodomizing a nine-year-old girl, and court papers say he admitted molesting 23 other young girls and repeatedly sexually abusing his own daughter.
The other plaintiffs were serving time for similar crimes.
Charles Brooks, 42, was convicted of sexually abusing a five-year-old girl. Prosecutors said he used a knife and choked the child, who was "immediately and physically overpowered."
Louis Massei, 52, was convicted of the kidnapping, rape and sodomy of a 16-year-old girl.
Robert Warren, 49, was convicted of sexually abusing an eight-old girl.
Robert Trocchio, 50, was convicted of "deviate sexual intercourse" involving sodomy.
Jorge Burgos, Jr., who died in 2011, was convicted of sodomy, burglary, assault, and sexual abuse. His estate is a party to the lawsuit.
The men's lawyers say that not only were their clients illegally deprived of their freedom through the state program, but in court papers they also accuse officials of acting "maliciously," by "inflicting humiliation, emotional distress and pain and suffering."
The lawyers for the defendants deny those charges, saying in court papers that the officials "acted reasonably'" because the correction law could not "protect the public safety and welfare from the danger posed by a prisoner who is mentally ill and in need of care and treatment and who is nearing an anticipated release from a correctional facility."
Fox News requested interviews with Pataki and the lawyers for both sides, but U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff asked that they not talk to the media at this time.
Others say the case could set a dangerous precedent for the release of child sex offenders.
"This has an incredibly chilling effect on a Governor's ability to exercise a criminal justice and a mental health policy to protect the people of his or her state," cautions Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson, Jr, who is also a former Pataki adviser and appointee.
He fears that it will harm "a state's ability to regulate how defendants are released, to regulate violent sexual predators and to regulate criminal justice matters in their own states."
Johnson also says the case is notable because a previous federal court ruling found the defendants do not have legal immunity, as is usually routine for public officials acting in their governmental capacity. The court found that the plaintiffs did not pose "an immediate danger to society" and that "due process" was not followed.
"It is kind of a nightmare come true for any public official. It appears that the people in the asylum now have the keys," he said.
Since May, three of the plaintiffs have been charged with new crimes. Two were accused of burglarizing a home in upstate New York, and another is charged with stabbing a man in a fight on Long Island.
Eric Shawn is a New York-based anchor and senior correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He anchors "America's News Headquarters" on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. ET. and “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo.” He anchors frequently during the week on the Fox News Channel and reports on politics, terrorism, and foreign affairs. Shawn has provided live coverage from both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions since 1992. In 2004 he led the Fox News investigative team that uncovered new evidence in the murder of Jimmy Hoffa, based on the claims of hit-man Frank Sheeran. Click here for more information on Eric Shawn.