Thursday, May 22, 2003

Inmate says he saw beating

Backs claim against Grant Co. Jail

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WILLIAMSTOWN - A Kentucky inmate has come forward to say he witnessed Grant County jail guards beat a Pendleton County businessman accused of drunken driving.

Convicted felon Kenneth Townsend's tape-recorded interview with a Covington trial lawyer follows claims made by Todd A. Cox, 36, of Falmouth in a federal lawsuit filed May 15 in Covington.

The suit alleges guards attacked Cox on March 13 after he dropped his coat and belt onto the floor of a cell instead of into a plastic bag as instructed.

"I was sitting in the ... window, like, watching, and they was beating the hell out of him. ... They kicked the crap out of him; they kicked him in the back, they kicked him in his stomach," said Townsend in the tape-recorded interview, a copy of which was obtained by The Enquirer.

"They was slinging him around pretty good, but they said he was drunk, which is bull. They just wanted to beat the hell out of the dude," Townsend said.

Townsend was in the jail awaiting sentencing when Cox was booked.

Townsend, 42, has been in and out of state prisons since 1980 for writing bad checks and for parole violations, said Lisa Lamb, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections

He is now in the Kenton County jail serving seven years for a February conviction in Campbell County on two counts of theft by deception of more than $300. He will be up for parole in February 2004.

Townsend said five or six guards kicked Cox while he was on the concrete floor of the jail. Townsend said the guards taunted Cox after beating him.

"They were kicking him, they were swinging him all over the place," Townsend said. "Yeah, the dude that kicked him kicked him like a football and laughed about it."

Grant County Jailer Steve Kellam has referred questions to his attorney, Tom Nienaber of Crescent Springs. Nienaber didn't return a call Wednesday.

Cox, who operates Cox Outdoor Advertising, specializing in roadside billboards in about 15 counties in Northern and Eastern Kentucky, said he has trouble lifting his arms above his head at work. He said he was in pain for six weeks before a doctor diagnosed fractured ribs.

"I feel like it is unsafe at that jail," said Cox. "Some stuff over there needs to change.''

Cox was arrested by police in Falmouth on suspicion of driving drunk.

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

Pendleton County Attorney Don Wells said he will not prosecute Cox's drunken-driving charge because Cox said he was beaten.

Wells said that if the Cox's claims turn out to be untrue, he would refile the drunken-driving charge.

The jail has been hit with four federal suits since March 27. Two claim prisoners were sodomized by fellow inmates, while the third claims guards beat an inmate for spilling a cup of juice.

Wells said he was concerned by a claim that the jail didn't keep a tape from the security system that might have recorded part of the alleged attack on Cox.

"The Commonwealth is concerned (that) ... the videotape that should have captured some of the interaction between Mr. Cox and the guards is said to be unavailable," Wells told a Pendleton County judge in open court.

The videotape was destroyed, even though Cox's attorney, Paul Hill of Covington, mailed a certified letter to the jail on April 2 asking that it be saved, according to the suit.


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