Civil Rights & Constitutional Law
Victim sues for access to records of her torture in Cuyahoga County jail
June 10, 2019
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
CLEVELAND, OH — Today, Chantelle Glass moved to amend her lawsuit against Cuyahoga County, Idris-Farid Clark, and Robert Marsh, to add new claims against the County and against 12 new defendants: County Executive Armond Budish; former-Chief of Staff Earl Leiken; interim-Director of Cuyahoga County Jails George Taylor; former-Sheriff Clifford Pinkney; former-Director of Regional Corrections Kenneth Mills; former-Warden Eric Ivey; corrections officers Feben Yeshak, Jazmyne Jackson, Barbara Bailey, Russell Belle, and Antonio Settles; and former jail nurse Diane Lessmann.
Glass’s original complaint alleged that on July 16, 2018, Marsh hit Ms. Glass—who had been picked up on a minor traffic warrant—in the head and Clark emptied a can of pepper foam directly into her face for six seconds—all while she was tied down in a restraint chair. These events were captured on jail surveillance videos. The complaint alleged that these actions had been taken in retaliation for Ms. Glass asking for a phone call to alert her family to her whereabouts.
On March 9, 2020, Clark was sentenced to 18 months and Marsh to 30 days of incarceration following plea bargains.
Ms. Glass's proposed amendment alleges that after the attack, neither Clark nor any jail staff member—including the jail nurse—adequately removed the pepper foam from Ms. Glass’s face and body. She was not permitted to shower or change clothes for the two days she remained in jail, leaving the foam to burn and irritate her skin. According to the proposed amendment, the jail staff refused to effectively decontaminate Ms. Glass to punish her and prolong her suffering.
The proposed amendment makes new claims against Cuyahoga County targeting the jail’s standard decontamination and restraint practices. The amendment includes claims for failing to train jail staff to promptly and effectively decontaminate inmates exposed to chemical agents; for unreasonable inmate-restraint practices; and for destruction of public records and spoliation of evidence.
The proposed amendment alleges that Cuyahoga County deprived Ms. Glass of her equal-protection rights by having jail staff decontaminate white inmates more effectively than African-American inmates like Ms. Glass, and provides examples of this.
The proposed amendment asserts that current and former County policymakers Budish, Leiken, Taylor, Pinkney, Mills, and Ivey failed to adequately train and supervise jail staff, created unconstitutional policies, and fostered a violent jail environment—while urging local communities to incarcerate prisoners there to increase County revenues. The U.S. Marshals Service and the County’s own Inspector General assessed the facility several months after Ms. Glass was attacked and found the jail overcrowded and understaffed with unhygienic conditions, inadequate medical care, and punitive staff-on-inmate violence.
The proposed amendment asserts that the corrections officers who witnessed the attack by Marsh and Clark failed to fulfill their constitutional duty to intervene and protect her from criminal violence. The proposed amendment alleges that after Yeshak threatened to lock Ms. Glass in a restraint chair for “getting smart” with her, and Jackson threatened to have Ms. Glass tied down and “maced,” those officers instigated the attack by summoning Clark. Belle allegedly tilted back the restraint chair as Marsh strapped her down and held the chair still as Clark tortured Ms. Glass, while Settles stood by and watched. Surveillance video shows Jackson, Yeshak, and Bailey (Marsh’s sister) standing in the pod doorway watching as Marsh and Clark attacked Ms. Glass.
The proposed amendment alleges that Bailey and Settles later filed false reports attempting to justify the violence against Ms. Glass.
Finally, Ms. Glass’s proposed amendment asserts that jail nurse Lessmann was deliberately indifferent to her acute medical needs, including the need to have the pepper foam removed because it was exacerbating her hypertension and asthma. The proposed amendment also alleges that Lessmann falsified Ms. Glass’s medical records.
Ms. Glass’s lead counsel, Ashlie Case Sletvold, said regarding the proposed amended complaint: “Ms. Glass is taking a stand against the entrenched culture of brutality at the County jail by demanding redress from everyone responsible for the torture she endured: from the high-level policymakers who treated inmates like chattel to the low-level corrections staff who stood by and did nothing to help her. She is committed to eradicating the inhumane and unconstitutional violence perpetrated inside our local jail.”
The proposed amended complaint may be found here, just behind the two-page motion seeking leave to amend.