Thursday, May 15, 2003

Third man claims jail beating; his case won't be prosecuted

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FALMOUTH - Pendleton County Attorney Don Wells will not prosecute a driving under the influence case because the defendant says he was beaten by jail guards in neighboring Grant County.

"The Grant County jail needs to hear my message," said Wells.

"Young people are not to be neglected and humiliated by thugs and hoodlums in the jail over there. And regardless of how foul-mouthed our folks are, they are not to be manhandled and kicked around like dogs."

Todd A. Cox, 36, of Falmouth is the third Northern Kentucky resident to come forward since February with allegations of abuse at the 300-bed jail that serves Grant and Pendleton counties.

Cox claims that he was assaulted by jail guards after Falmouth police arrested him on March 13 on charges of drunken driving.

Court records indicate that Cox's blood-alcohol concentration was 0.19, more than twice Kentucky's legal limit of 0.08.

"I asked for the case to be dismissed because had Mr. Cox been found guilty, the judge would have to put him back in the same jail where he allegedly was assaulted," Wells said.

"And if the assault really happened as he claimed, I think it probably was punishment enough."

Pendleton County Judge-executive Henry Bertram wasn't in his office Wednesday afternoon and didn't return a message seeking comment.

His county pays the Grant County jail to house its prisoners.

In allowing the case to be dismissed without prejudice, Wells said he would re-file the charge if Cox's allegations turned out not to be true.

It was unclear if District Judge William Probus will ask for an investigation into the claims of abuse.

The judge, who serves multiple counties, was in Cynthiana Wednesday and unavailable for comment.

Grant County Jailer Steve Kellam has referred all questions about jail misconduct to his attorney, Tom Nienaber. Nienaber didn't return a message.

Cox's attorney, Paul Hill, said he is preparing a federal lawsuit against the jail on his client's behalf.

Cox, who operates Cox Outdoor Advertising and was a Pendleton County High School basketball standout, was unavailable for comment.

Wells, who stressed that he didn't know if the allegations were true, said he was concerned that a jail surveillance tape of the altercation was not preserved by the jail's staff. Hill said the tape wasn't saved despite his requests to preserve it.

"I'm depending on Mr. Hill's obligation not to mislead the court in relaying this information to me," Wells said.

Wells told the district judge of an 18-year-old who said he was assaulted and sexually abused by five prisoners after being jailed on a traffic violation.

A judge in that case essentially dismissed a charge of evading police by merging it with a charge of speeding, allowing the man to pay a $100 fine to resolve the case.

The 18-year-old, whom the Enquirer is not identifying because of the nature of the crime, is suing Grant County and the jail.


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