County seeks to forbid ‘racist’ texts, bad press from dead inmate trial

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Deputies fired over racists texts retired on disability

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Attorneys for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office want the ‘racist’ text message saga, ‘bad press’ and county commissioners’ call for a federal investigation excluded from the trial about an inmate who died in jail.

A motion seeks to exclude any mention about a recent string of lawsuits against the jail by the plaintiffs in the federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit involving Robert Richardson, who died in Montgomery County Jail on May 19, 2012.

RELATED: Two fired after ‘racist’ text messages

Defense attorneys don't want Richardson's estate attorneys to bring up the situation that led to the firing of former Montgomery County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) employees Det. Michael Sollenberger and Capt. Thomas Flanders, who were both deposed during the Richardson case. Both took medical disability retirements.

“This incident garnered much media attention, both locally and nationally, and continues to do,” county attorneys wrote. “Evidence regarding the investigation and discipline of the MCSO employees involved in this matter would simply be a backdoor to introduce the text message evidence at trial, and further, it would turn the trial into a sideshow, and invite the jury to become distracted as to whether the MCSO addressed and disciplined this matter.”

Montgomery County Jail is shown in the center of this photo. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Montgomery County Jail is shown in the center of this photo. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Depositions in the case indicate Sollenberger denied being a racist but admitted he used racial slurs. Sollenberger said he reconciled that distinction because, “they’re jokes.”

Documents about Montgomery County litigation show that through Dec. 31, 2016, the county had spent $164,378.09 in payments or expenses to date on the Richardson case.

RELATED: Richardson attorney claims he was ‘crushed to death’

Attorneys filed several motions in the Richardson case, which is scheduled for a March 6 trial, but that may get pushed back.

County attorneys seek to prevent any mention of the eight current lawsuits facing various members of the Montgomery County Jail staff, including Sheriff Phil Plummer.

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