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Cuyahoga County faces yet another lawsuit over torture at jail

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Complaint alleges that jail personnel pepper sprayed, attacked, restrained, and mocked inmate Chariell Glaze, who was asking about his scheduled release

CLEVELAND, OH — Yesterday, Chariell Glaze filed in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas a civil-rights complaint against Cuyahoga County and corrections officers Damein Bodeker and Masai Brown, alleging that the County’s failures to discipline officers for abusing inmates and deplorable jail conditions fostered a toxic environment that led to a November 27, 2017 attack on Mr. Glaze.

The complaint alleges that Mr. Glaze had completed his sentence and was asking jail staff to call the booking department about his release. As the jail went on red zone—a practice of locking people in their cells for up to 23 hours at a time due to understaffing and overcrowding at the jail—Mr. Glaze asked corrections officer Masai Brown to call booking. Mr. Glaze eventually asked Brown, per jail policy, to call a corporal to address Mr. Glaze’s concerns.

The complaint alleges that Corporal Damein Bodeker—who has since been promoted to sergeant—arrived and quickly escalated the situation, grabbing Mr. Glaze by the collar and pepper spraying him without any justification.

Cuyahoga County faces yet another lawsuit over torture at jail
Glaze pepper sprayed as jail corporal Damien Bodekar grabs his collar.

The complaint alleges that Bodeker and Brown then used additional unnecessary and excessive force against Mr. Glaze, including walking him into a metal door.

The complaint details how members of the jail’s Special Response Team (SRT) arrived and strapped Mr. Glaze into a restraint chair, laughing that the other officers “got you real good” and asking “how hot is it?”—referring to the pepper foam burning his face. The complaint alleges that SRT applied a spit mask without cause, making it harder for Mr. Glaze to breathe, and then ineffectively decontaminated him. The complaint describes how Mr. Glaze was not permitted to shower for days and experienced burning pain from the pepper-spray residue on his skin.

The complaint alleges that the jail staff’s response to Mr. Glaze’s suffering is indicative of jail staff being desensitized to the suffering of those in their custody. The complaint includes screenshots of Facebook posts from corrections officers Darriell Hayes and Katie Spragg joking about using pepper spray, including on children:

Cuyahoga County faces yet another lawsuit over torture at jail
Facebook post by officer joking about pepper-spraying a kindergartener.

Cuyahoga County faces yet another lawsuit over torture at jail
Facebook post by corrections officer about calling pepper spray "people seasoning."

The complaint also alleges that the County, consistent with its practice in the jail, destroyed or failed to preserve records of the attack on Mr. Glaze. Video evidence obtained by public-records request depicts only a snippet of the attack.

The suit is captioned Glaze v. Cuyahoga County, et al., Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-19-925881, and is assigned to Judge Michael P. Shaughnessy. The suit asserts claims for excessive force, failure to train and supervise, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, reckless hiring, destruction of records, and more.

A copy of Glaze's complaint may be found here.

The reckless-hiring claim against the County is based on Masai Brown’s troubled public employment history, which included, among other issues, a previous firing from the Village of Woodmere for having sexually explicit material on his government-owned computer and falsifying records; and news reports of an indictment for kidnapping and felonious assault with a firearm, after a woman told police Brown had forced her into his car and threatened to kill her, before he fired his gun. A news report also alleges Brown falsely denied any prior job firing in his application to the Cleveland Municipal School District, where he served as a school-security officer after the Woodmere firing. And a news report alleges Brown similarly failed to disclose his Woodmere job termination to the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, and that a psychology report in Woodmere personnel files described Brown as a "very angry man."

Masai Brown’s behavior in Woodmere was one of the topics leading to Chandra Law’s $2,000,000 federal jury verdict in 2008 on behalf of former police chief LaMont Lockhart against Woodmere and its then-mayor Yolanda Broadie for retaliation. That case later settled for just under $1.4 million.

Ashlie Case Sletvold, Mr. Glaze’s lead counsel, said, “The disaster at the Cuyahoga County jail is a human-rights crisis. We condemn the use of violence against those incarcerated who present no threat to themselves or others. Mr. Glaze and we are determined to hold Cuyahoga County and its corrections personnel accountable for the civil-rights violations they have perpetrated.”

Co-counsel Subodh Chandra added, “The last thing I would have expected after we—11 years ago—exposed Masai Brown’s betrayal of public trust, is for public entities like Cuyahoga County to allow him to recirculate himself through public employment—even though the information about his dubious background is readily available on the internet. With hiring practices so lax, no wonder Cuyahoga County has a human-rights crisis on its hands.”

Sletvold, Chandra, and Brian Bardwell of The Chandra Law Firm LLC represent Mr. Glaze.

This is the fifth lawsuit Chandra Law has brought against the County and its corrections officers this year over abuse, torture, and other misconduct in the jail. The others include:

The firm filed a sixth 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 & brutality
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