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Cuyahoga County Council considering settlement in lawsuit alleging jail officer attacked a praying inmate

Monday, July 20, 2020

Complaint alleges Corrections Officer Christopher Perdue attacked inmate in retaliation for reporting inhumane conditions and criminal conduct among guards at the jail.

Cuyahoga County Corrections Officer Christopher Perdue attacks Tyrone Hipps.

CLEVELAND, OH — Cuyahoga County Council is considering a resolution to approve a proposed settlement with a former inmate in the Cuyahoga County Corrections Center to resolve claims that one of the county’s employees attacked him while he was praying in jail.

Tyrone Hipps, Jr. filed his civil-rights lawsuit in July against Cuyahoga County and corrections officer Christopher Perdue, alleging that the County’s failures to discipline officers for abusing inmates and practice of destroying records documenting such abuse fostered a toxic environment that led to Perdue’s attack on Mr. Hipps.

Mr. Hipps was in the jail in 2018 when a review team from the U.S. Marshals Service audited the jail for compliance with federal regulations, and he was among several inmates who blew the whistle on crimes being committed there by jail staff—in particular, members of the jail’s Special Response Team (SRT).

According to the complaint, a corrections officer warned him that SRT members would retaliate, and Perdue, an SRT member, made good on that threat. While Mr. Hipps, a Muslim, was preparing to pray as he normally did, Perdue approached him and ordered him to pray elsewhere. Mr. Hipps objected to the instruction, as Perdue was directing him to pray in areas where his faith did not permit him to perform his prayer. When he asked Perdue to find a supervisor to resolve the issue, Perdue left but returned alone. He again ordered Mr. Hipps to move, and Mr. Hipps complied. But as he was walking toward his bunk, Perdue grabbed him, placed him in a chokehold, dragged him across the room, and slammed him to the ground.

The complaint alleges that Perdue falsified official records, claiming in a report that Mr. Hipps had actually assaulted him. An internal review found that surveillance cameras “did not capture” the events Perdue described.

The complaint also alleges that the County, consistent with its practice in the jail, destroyed or failed to preserve records of Perdue’s attack on Mr. Hipps. Video evidence of the attack obtained by public-records request includes significant gaps.

According to the complaint, the County concluded that Defendant Perdue violated rules prohibiting “unnecessary contact with a jail inmate” and committed acts constituting “incompetency, inefficiency, dishonesty, immoral conduct, insubordination, discourteous treatment of the public, failure of good behavior or other misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance in office.”

The County purportedly suspended Defendant Perdue for five days, but it quietly ordered him back to work after only three days off.

“Mr. Hipps remains traumatized by what happened to him—enduring violence as he tried to pray. No human being should ever experience that in a civilized society,” said Subodh Chandra, managing partner of The Chandra Law Firm LLC. “He fervently wishes that those county officials responsible for what he and others have endured—from the lowest ranks to the highest—would be held meaningfully accountable. But that doesn't seem to be the way things work there.”

The suit is captioned Hipps v. Cuyahoga County, et al., Case No. CV-19-02815, and it brings claims of First Amendment retaliation, interference with free exercise of religion, excessive force, failure to train and supervise, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, destruction of records, and more.

Mr. Hipps is represented by Subodh Chandra and Brian D. Bardwell of The Chandra Law Firm LLC, and Ziad Tayeh of Tayeh Law Offices, LLC.

This is one of several lawsuits Chandra Law has brought against the County and its corrections officers over abuse, torture, and other misconduct in the jail. The firm also represents:

  • Chantelle Glass, whose complaint alleges corrections officers tortured her for asking for a phone call;
  • Corrionne Lawrence, whose complaint alleges corrections staff restrained and beat him, and then threatened to hang him and “make it look like suicide” because he reported misconduct to U.S. Marshals;
  • Glenn Mayer, Jr., a former inmate whose complaint alleges a corrections officer left him in a wheelchair after being attacked for shaking while taking medication to control his seizures;
  • Michael Roarty-Nugent, a former inmate whose complaint alleges corrections officers attacked him for trying to accept an offer of extra milk; and
  • Chariell Glaze, a former inmate whose complaint alleges corrections officers attacked him with pepper spray for asking when he could expect to be released.

The firm has also filed a lawsuit against the County, Ken Mills, Armond Budish, MetroHealth, Akram Boutros, and Jane Platten alleging retaliation against Nurse Gary Brack, who blew the whistle on jail conditions to County Council and was swiftly removed from his position as nursing director.

Related Practice Areas
First AmendmentGovernment Ethics, Misconduct, Fraud, & AbusePolice Misconduct & BrutalityReligious DiscriminationRace Discrimination

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