Tuesday, October 03, 2000

Man sues after 92 days in jail without trial

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A federal lawsuit, filed Monday in Cincinnati, accuses six Butler County criminal justice officials of violating a Hamilton man's basic rights — to a lawyer, a speedy trial and others — by holding him in the county jail for 92 days without a trial.

        The lawsuit says Randy Field, 43, “was denied medication and adequate medical care and was forced to sleep on the floor of the jail,” counter to his civil rights and the U.S. Constitution's guaranteed protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

        Officials in June had to dismiss an aggravated arson charge against Mr. Field because he had been held without a trial longer than the 90 days Ohio law allows.

        Attorney Geoffrey P. Damon of Cincinnati, who filed the lawsuit on Mr. Field's behalf, seeks unspecified punitive damages.

        The defendants are: Sheriff Harold D. Gabbard; the estate of the ex-county Prosecutor John F. Holcomb; Clerk of Courts Cindy Carpenter; Dan Gattermeyer, current county prosecutor; Cindy Baker, administrator of the county Common Pleas Court; and Norman Lewis, county jail warden.

        Among the contentions in the lawsuit:

        • After Mr. Field was indicted under the misspelled name, “Randy Fields” in February, a blank, unsigned bond entry form was filed, “which, in effect, denied bond to Mr. Field.” That occurred in violation of a local court rule, the lawsuit says.

        • The court administrator failed to appoint an attorney for Mr. Field, who is indigent, “thereby denying (his) right to counsel.”

        • Mr. Field was scheduled to appear in court March 13 — although he had been provided with no notice that he was supposed to be there. And after he didn't show up, a warrant was issued for his arrest — and his bond, which had neither been set nor posted, was revoked and forfeited.

        At the time of Mr. Field's release, Mr. Holcomb had said the problems happened because Ms. Carpenter's office didn't notify him that Mr. Field was locked up.

        But Ms. Carpenter said Mr. Holcomb's office should have received at least 64 notices that Mr. Field was locked up: two “courtesy copies” of returns on arrest warrants faxed from her office and 62 inmate rosters. Such rosters are to be sent from the jail to the prosecutor's office each weekday.

        She said the prosecutor's office also has computer access to court records that would have indicated Mr. Field had been arrested and was awaiting court hearings.


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