Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Lawsuit tells of jail brutality


Grant facility accused of denying needed treatment

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - Billy Jo Killion stood in a hallway of the Grant County jail with numerous broken bones before crumpling into a corner.

He then cowered like a beaten animal, shaking as a guard berated him for not standing. Killion was still wearing the blood-splattered clothing that he had on when he was assaulted four days earlier.

That's how attorney Jonathan O. Wells described finding Killion in a three-page motion he wrote asking a judge to grant his client, who had been convicted of burglary, shock probation instead of jail time. Wells also wrote in his motion that after seeing the condition of Killion, he felt it was his duty to ask the court to suspend the rest of his sentence.

"(I) visited Mr. Killion on January 15th upon being informed of his condition," Wells wrote in the Jan. 17 motion. "I must say Mr. Killion's condition was very disturbing. Counsel acknowledges he is not a physician, but Mr. Killion should be in a hospital, not a jail cell."

On Monday, the 43-year-old Killion became the fifth person since late March to file a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Covington against the Grant County jail. Killion, who now lives in southeastern Kentucky, declined to comment on it through his civil attorney, Donald Nageleisen of Covington.

But Nageleisen said Killion was beaten by fellow inmates, denied medical care and locked in isolation in an attempt to cover up the assault.

"It is just another example of the horrible things that have taken place at the Grant County jail," said Nageleisen, who is representing four of the five people suing the jail. "It has become more obvious that there are a lot more cases out there. I'm still fielding five, 10, 15 calls a day from people claiming they or a family member were abused at the jail."

Grant County Jailer Steve Kellam has referred all questions concerning jail misconduct to his lawyer, Tom Nienaber of Crescent Springs.

"I have looked at the lawsuit, but I have not had a chance to talk to my client. I can't comment further," Nienaber said.

Wells is a Carrollton attorney who served as Killion's public defender during a burglary case. He couldn't be reached Tuesday for comment. He did, however, leave a paper trail at the Grant Circuit Clerk's office chronicling Killion's injuries.

Wells wrote in his motion for shock probation that Killion had three skull fractures, possible fractured ribs and a broken mandible as well as extensive damage to his right eye.

"It is doubtful Mr. Killion will ever have the use of his right eye again," Wells wrote.

He backed up his motion with medical documentation. A radiology report dated Jan. 11 from St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Edgewood said Killion suffered trauma to the face including "a blowout fracture of the right orbit with ... fractures of the right orbital floor."

Grant County jail nurse Sandy Cook wrote in a jail medical form dated Jan. 22 that a doctor said Killion "must have surgery" by Jan. 27 "at the latest." Court records show the surgery was scheduled with Dr. Mark A. Cepela, an ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgeon with offices in Edgewood, Mount Auburn and Fairfield.

Nageleisen, Killion's civil attorney, said his client never received the surgery scheduled for Jan. 27. The suit claims Killion was placed in isolation for weeks until being transferred to the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange.

Killion said in his civil suit that his eyeball was partially hanging from its socket.

In arguing for shock probation for Killion, Wells wrote in his motion that "financially, Mr. Killion will become a huge burden to the Grant County jail. If Killion remains incarcerated he will cost the jail an exorbitant amount of money since it is expected he will shortly require surgery for his injuries."

The shock probation was not granted by Judge Stephen Bates of Grant Circuit Court.

Nageleisen said Killion didn't get medical treatment until after being released from prison on the burglary conviction.

"Rather than send (Killion) to have his required surgery on his crushed in face and/or damaged eye within 48 hours as ordered by the physicians at the hospital, the Grant County Detention Center instead placed (Killion) in an isolation cell despite him being in excruciating pain," he said.

The suit claims Kellam failed to properly train and manage his staff on the humane and proper care and treatment of prisoners. Nageleisen said the jail staff should have known Killion would be assaulted in the cell he was assigned to because of attacks upon other inmates in that cell.

"It is hard to describe Mr. Killion's condition or how a human being could not feel some sympathy for Mr. Killion," Wells wrote in his motion.

E-mail jhannah@enquirer.com




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