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Cuyahoga County jail officer stomped detainee’s arm and, suit alleges, lied about it to have him thrown into solitary confinement

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Corrections officer Jermaine Clements now faces civil claims in addition to the criminal charges stemming from his brutality against Gregory Nelson

CLEVELAND, OH — Yet another Cuyahoga County jail corrections officer is facing a lawsuit for an unjustifiable attack on an inmate.

A lawsuit filed yesterday alleges that Jermaine Clements, a member of the jail’s Special Response Team—known to inmates as “The Men in Black”—attacked detainee Gregory Nelson for demanding to speak to a corporal.

The complaint says the County placed Nelson in a cell filled with urine and feces. When Nelson asked for permission to clean it, Clements refused. Nelson followed jail protocol and asked Clements to call a corporal to review Clements’s decision, but Clements refused again. When Nelson signaled for the cameras that he wanted a corporal by sticking his hand through the food chute in his door, Clements attacked.

The complaint alleges that Clements’s own video shows him immediately begin stomping on Nelson’s hand and arm. The video shows that Clements smashed his boot down on Nelson’s arm at least five times.

Moments later, a corporal came running, and Clements began lying to cover up the attack, First, he claimed he tried to use his leg to push Mr. Nelson’s hand back through the chute. Moments later, he instead said he used an open palm to push Mr. Nelson’s hand back through the chute. Soon after, Clements was claiming that he was trying to escape from Mr. Nelson, who he said had tried to grab him through the food chute (which is only about four inches tall). When he finally wrote up a report on the incident, Clements had moved on to yet another story, saying that Mr. Nelson had actually pulled his arm through.

Clements embellished further in his fifth account, claiming that Nelson had both grabbed a food tray from Clements and grabbed Clements’s arm, and that Clements was hospitalized as a result. Although Clements knew that Mr. Nelson was locked behind a giant metal door, he insisted that Mr. Nelson was “still a threat,” and that was why he attacked him.

Clements’s supervisors assigned Nelson to solitary confinement “pending investigation.” After reviewing the videos and discovering that Clements lied about the entire incident, they said they would give him a 15-day suspension, but, the complaint alleges, they never required him to serve it.

Despite being vindicated, Mr. Nelson remained in dismal solitary confinement for nine months. He is now out of solitary confinement and housed with inmates who have been exposed to COVID-19.

Although the Sheriff’s Department is pursuing criminal charges against Clements for the attack, employment records indicate that it is simultaneously allowing him to continue working as a corrections officer—despite his brutality and lying.

Mr. Nelson is bringing claims for First Amendment retaliation, excessive force, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress—among others—against Clements.

The complaint further alleges that the attack was a result of Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish’s stubborn refusal to pursue meaningful reforms after he entrusted it to Kenneth Mills, an unqualified and incompetent political appointee. The complaint includes claims against Budish and the County itself for establishing customs, policies, patterns, and practices that tolerated excessive force.

Mr. Nelson is represented by Subodh Chandra, Jessica S. Savoie, and Brian D. Bardwell of The Chandra Law Firm, LLC.

Mr. Chandra said this case proves the County still isn’t serious about the jail: “Conditions at the Cuyahoga County Jail are atrocious enough at their best—inmates shouldn’t be forced to sit in a tiny cell with days-old human waste on top of everything else. And when they exercise their First Amendment right to demand better conditions, corrections officers should hand out mops, not beatings. Until Armond Budish and Sheriff Schilling get serious about fixing these conditions, corrections officers are going to keep attacking people, and the county is going to keep wasting its money paying for injuries that never should have happened.”

The case is Nelson v. Cuyahoga County, et al., No. 1:20-cv-02783 (N.D. Ohio). The complaint is here.

Video of Clement's brutality against Nelson may be found here.

This is only the latest jail–brutality case being handled by The Chandra Law Firm. The firm has also filed the following other cases stemming from the County’s dereliction of its duty to maintain the jail in decent order:

Related Practice Areas
Police Misconduct & Brutality

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