Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Second assault alleged in N.Ky. jail

Inmate files federal lawsuit

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - A second Northern Kentucky resident has filed a federal suit against the Grant County jail claiming he was assaulted while housed in the Williamstown institution.

John Nelson Taylor, 27, of Grant County says in a federal suit filed Friday in Covington that jail guards beat him while he was handcuffed, denied him medical treatment and then locked him in an isolation cell to cover up the assault.

"Despite being clearly injured and bleeding, (Taylor) was then placed in an isolation cell for approximately three days to allow his physical injuries to heal and to cover up the facts surrounding the beating given to him by (deputies)," the suit says.

Elected Jailer Steve Kellam has repeatedly refused to answer any questions about jail operations. His attorney, Tom Nienaber, said Monday afternoon that he was not familiar with the latest lawsuit and would not answer general questions about jail operations.

Attorney Don Nageleisen, who is representing Taylor, said Kellam has taken steps since February to make the jail safe, including terminating some employees, but Kellam has refused to discuss any disciplinary actions and ignored an April 11 Enquirer open-records request seeking that information.

"I know that Mr. Kellam has taken steps to correct this jail," Nageleisen said. "I know people have been terminated, and I hope he continues to clean it up."

Earlier, a civil suit was filed against the jail and the jailer by an 18-year-old who said he was assaulted and sexually abused by five prisoners in February after being jailed on a traffic violation. Five prisoners face assault and sodomy charges in that case.

The Enquirer is not naming the 18-year-old, who is also represented by Nageleisen.

Taylor is serving 31/2 years for a 2001 guilty plea to possession of a controlled substance.

Nageleisen said Taylor was beaten in May 2002 by guards because he spilled his drink while lifting his food tray through a small slot in a cell door. The suit claims the jail nurse failed to properly treat Taylor or to see that he was promptly taken to St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Williamstown, a five-minute drive from the jail.

Nienaber represents the guards and the nurse as well and could not comment on those claims of the suit.

Taylor said in his suit that despite begging for medical treatment, he wasn't taken to the hospital for three days because the guards said they didn't have anyone to drive him.

Nageleisen said when his client was taken to the hospital on the fourth day, X-rays showed he had no broken bones.

The suit alleges the assault could not have gone unnoticed by Kellam and other staff members because of constant video and audio monitoring in place at the jail.

"I want everyone to know Mr. Taylor is (still) housed at the Grant County jail," said Nageleisen. "I want the jail to know the world is watching and the jail staff will be held accountable if he is further mistreated."

Nageleisen said he fears Taylor will be denied the privilege of joining a county cleanup crew during the day or be transferred to another jail to make it difficult for his family to visit.

"When the jail doesn't want to deal with a particular prisoner, or they want to cover up abuse of that prisoner, they have been known to ship them out," Nageleisen said. "I will consider that further violation of my client's rights if that happens this time."

Defendants in the suit include the Grant County Fiscal Court, Kellam and other jail staff. Taylor is asking for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The suit contends Kellam knew or should have known Taylor would be subject to violence prior to placing him in that facility due to the ongoing treatment and brutality previously imposed upon other inmates prior to (Taylor's) arrival.

Nageleisen also represents the 18-year-old man who claimed he was assaulted and sodomized by prisoners while spending a night in the jail for a traffic violation.

A state police investigation and an internal investigation by the jail in the case of the 18-year-old, both on file at the Grant County jail, include interviews that claim the 125-pound man was roughed up by a gang of men and sexually assaulted after a guard told inmates to "take care of my boy."

The guard winked after telling prisoners they were getting "fresh meat" that night, an inmate not implicated in the attack told investigators. At least one other inmate, whose account is contained in 75 pages of court records, described a similar exchange between a guard and inmates in the cell.

While five inmates will be tried on assault and sodomy charges on May 30, a Grant County grand jury declined to indict anyone on the jail staff.

E-mail jhannah@enquirer.com

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