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Suit alleging beating and retaliation by Cuyahoga County jail officials tentatively settled for $140,000

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The settlement was reached through negotiations facilitated by U.S. District Judge James S. Gwin and, according to county attorneys, is subject to approval by the County Council.

CLEVELAND, OH—Today in federal court, Corrionne Lawrence, who three months ago filed a civil-rights complaint alleging he was beaten and endured retaliation by Cuyahoga County jail officials for cooperating with a U.S. Marshals investigation into the jail, reached a tentative $140,000 settlement of his lawsuit. According to county attorneys, the settlement is subject to formal approval by the Cuyahoga County Council. The agreement was reached through the facilitation of U.S. District Judge James S. Gwin.

Lawrence had alleged that corrections officers in the fall of 2018:

  • Confined him to a restraint chair for hours to punsih him for speaking Spanish during his booking;
  • Knowingly allowed him to be attacked by another inmate being held for the murder of Lawrence's cousin;
  • Beat Lawrence as he was handcuffed in an elevator with a non-functional security camera—and then denied him medical treatment for his injuries;
  • Threatened to mace and hang him, and, as one correction officer allegedly threatened, “make it look like a suicide;” and
  • Retaliated against him by threatening him, serving him rotten food, and denying him access to basic hygiene—all for reporting to U.S. Marshals Service investigators these and other abuses.

The suit also recounted numerous other instances of abuse against Cuyahoga County jail inmates, showing that the County has a custom, policy, pattern, and practice of fostering a culture of abuse and corruption at the jail and failing to train and supervise corrections officers.

Lawrence’s lead counsel, Ashlie Case Sletvold, said, “Mr. Lawrence is pleased that the county is taking steps toward resolving the incidents against him in a way that befits their seriousness. He hopes that this resolution is the first step in resolving the County jail's ongoing human-rights crisis.”

Captioned Lawrence v. Cuyahoga County, et al., Case No. CV-19-921522, the suit alleges violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; civil assault and battery; and civil liability for criminal acts including felonious assault, unlawful restraint, intimidation, menacing, interfering with civil rights, and dereliction of duty.

The individual corrections officers in the suit named include Christopher Little, Brandon Smith, Barry Hickerson, and Beverly Witt. Two other officers sued remain unidentified.

Cuyahoga County has done nothing to hold these corrections officers accountable.

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

Chandra Law has filed five suits against the County and its corrections officers this year alone over abuse, torture, and other misconduct in the jail. The others include:

  • a suit on behalf of Chantelle Glass, who suffered torture and then medical indifference at the jail—all captured on video, and
  • a suit on behalf of Glenn Mayer, Jr., a disabled inmate who alleges he was attacked by a corrections officer while receiving his medication.
  • a suit on behalf of Tyrone Hipps, a Muslim inmate who alleges he was put in a chokehold while trying to pray.
  • a suit on behalf of Chariell Glaze, an inmate who alleges he was pepper-sprayed and confined to a restraint chair for asking the guards to call the booking department about his scheduled release.

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 AmendmentPolice misconduct & brutality
Tags
first-amendment-retaliationwhistleblowerexcessive-forcecuyahoga-county-jailarmond-budishcorrionne-lawrencebeverly-wittbrandon-smithbarry-hickersonchristopher-littlecuyahoga-county-correctional-centerakram-boutrosmetrohealth

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