Four lawsuits pending against sheriff’s office

Capt. Judy Sealey, who was promoted from sergeant early in 2016, turns away from Amber Swink after she used pepper spray against Swink while the inmate was bound in a 7-point harness in the Montgomery County Jail in November 2015. FILE
Capt. Judy Sealey, who was promoted from sergeant early in 2016, turns away from Amber Swink after she used pepper spray against Swink while the inmate was bound in a 7-point harness in the Montgomery County Jail in November 2015. FILE

Robert Richardson died face down on a Montgomery County Jail floor surrounded by medics and corrections officers.

Emily Evans contends she was slammed to the concrete floor while being booked in for drunk driving.

Amber Swink was pepper-sprayed by then Sgt. Judith Sealey while trapped in a seven-point harness.

Jeffrey Day says he was forced to spend five days in jail with a shattered hip.

I-Team: State inspection, federal probe add to county jail’s woes

Four federal civil lawsuits against the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, jail personnel and others were filed in Dayton’s U.S. District Court in the past three years, including two in the past three months. Surveillance video captured parts of all four incidents.

In August 2015, the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners approved spending $225,000 for outside legal counsel to defend the suits — before the Swink and Day lawsuits were filed.

The status of each lawsuit:

Richardson case

Robert A. Richardson, 28, died May 19, 2012 after corrections officers and medical personnel responded to his cell when his cellmate said Richardson needed assistance.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed in 2014 alleges several jail employees handcuffed and subdued Richardson on his stomach outside the cell door while he was having a medical emergency. The suit said that Richardson “was essentially crushed to death by various corrections officers.”

An internal investigation found no wrongdoing by jail personnel, finding that “employees “restricted Mr. Richardson’s movement to prevent Mr. Richardson from injuring himself.”

But in a deposition, sheriff’s office Capt. Chuck Crosby admitted that Richardson during the 22-minute ordeal was placed in restraints while in a prone position, which is in violation of departmental policy.

The defendants have moved to bifurcate, or divide, the case against various defendants. Plaintiff’s attorney said the effort to do so is to exclude evidence such as text messages Sheriff Phil Plummer called racist when he fired two employees and disciplined three others.

One of those disciplined was Sgt. Brian Lewis, who allegedly had a March 2, 2012 text message exchange with now-fired Det. Michael Sollenberger. Sollenberger texted, “I’ll stab a coon,” to which Lewis responded, “Thataboy,” according to court documents.

A plaintiff’s motion states that seven weeks later, Lewis was the supervising officer on scene when Richardson,who was black, died. The motion says Sollenberger was responsible for gathering information about Richardson’s death and Thomas Flanders — the other employee fired by Plummer — put together the risk management report.

The trial is scheduled for March 6, 2017.

Evans case

Emily Evans, then 27, was brought to jail on a drunk-driving charge early in the morning of March 30, 2014. Her blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit of .08.

Surveillance video showed Sgt. Eric Banks interacting with Evans. Her attorney said a deputy pointed a Taser at Evans and threatened her, and that Banks slammed Evans to the floor, causing multiple facial fractures. Evans’ attorney said it took three months to get the video.

An incident report by Banks said Evans used her legs to press against the wall and toward him, so he “guided her to the ground.”

The suit was dismissed against all defendants but two — Banks and Thomas Feehan, who have appealed that decision to a higher court. The case is on hold without a trial date pending a decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Swink case

Clay Twp. police on Nov. 15, 2015 brought Amber Swink, then 24, to jail after being called to a Brookville residence about a domestic dispute.

After having been pepper-sprayed once by Sealey, she was placed into a restraint in an isolation cell for allegedly yelling and screaming. Surveillance video shows Sealey blast pepper spray directly into Swink’s face.

The incident is being investigated by Dayton police and now reportedly federal agents. Sealey — who was promoted to captain early in 2016 — is on administrative leave.

Swink’s attorney filed an amended complaint and an answer from the defendants is due Nov. 21.

Day case

On Nov. 26, 2015, Jeffrey Day was a passenger in a car accident in Trotwood. Day, 36, was arrested for obstructing justice for allegedly not being truthful when police questioned him.

Day’s attorney alleges Day was kept in jail for five days with a fractured pelvis and hip and only given a Tylenol. For part of that time, jail personnel put Day in the “psych ward.”

The suit filed Oct. 18, 2016 said Day was denied medical treatment and that he needed emergency surgery when he got out of jail five days later. No answer has been filed by the defendants.