Monday, June 30, 2003

Jail inmate says he's being intimidated



By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WILLIAMSTOWN - A Kentucky inmate says he is suffering retaliation for speaking out about alleged prisoner abuse at the Grant County jail.

Convicted felon Kenneth Townsend, 42, claims he was denied toilet paper for up to a week at the jail, located 40 miles south of Cincinnati in Williamstown.

"I have been asking for toilet tissue for six days," Townsend wrote in a letter dated June 15. "I have torn up two T-shirts and two pairs of socks. That is uncalled-for. Since my name was on the TV set and in the newspaper, I have been treated (badly)."

Jail attorney Tom Nienaber calls Townsend's claims "absolutely ludicrous" and says there is no merit to the claim.

"The idea of him being denied toilet paper is ridiculous," Nienaber said. "He is not being retaliated against at the Grant County Detention Center. The Grant County Detention Center is in no way violating his rights or treating him any different than any other inmate."

The Enquirer quoted Townsend about conditions at the jail only after the Kentucky Department of Correction told a reporter that Townsend had been transferred out of the jail in May. And a state-maintained Web page that lists where each state inmate is being housed has not included Townsend's information for more than a month.

Department Spokeswoman Lisa Lamb said she couldn't explain why the state's own Web site didn't indicate where Townsend was located. A random check of 10 other convicted felons from Northern Kentucky found that they were housed in the facility indicated on the state's Web site.

Townsend's attorney, Paul Hill of Covington, said his client has been physically threatened by guards. Hill claims Townsend is a material witness to an alleged beating of another one of Hill's clients.

"It is a felony to intimidate a witness," Hill said. "It is obstruction of justice. I'm going to ask for the Commonwealth's Attorney to look into this matter. And I'm telling the FBI about this."

In a letter dated June 19 to the jail's council, Hill requested Townsend be moved to another facility, but as of Friday, Townsend remained at the Grant County jail.

When asked Friday why Townsend hadn't been transferred, Lamb said her department had not received any such request, adding that the jail had told state officials they had not received any such request from Hill.

Since late March, five civil rights lawsuits have been filed in U.S. District Court in Covington claiming prisoners abuse at the jail that serves Pendleton and Grant counties.

Townsend claims in a tape-recorded interview with Hill that he witnessed a beating alleged in one of the suits. Townsend said he saw guards kick a handcuffed inmate "like a football and laugh about it."

Falmouth businessman Todd A. Cox, 36, says he was that inmate.

Cox is one of five former inmates to sue the jail and is being represented by Hill. Cox was placed in the jail after being arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. Despite court records indicating that Cox's blood-alcohol concentration was 0.19 - more than twice Kentucky's legal limit of 0.08 - a prosecutor got a judge to drop the charge.

Pendleton County Attorney Don Wells said if the jail beating took place as Cox claimed, it was punishment enough. He said he does not condone drinking and driving, but the allegations of jail beating are serious.

Grant County Jailer Steve Kellam has referred questions about alleged inmate abuse to Nienaber, the jail attorney. Nienaber said he cannot comment on Townsend's claim that he witnessed Cox being beaten until after depositions in the case are taken.

Townsend has been in and out of state prisons since 1980 for writing bad checks and for parole violations, according to state officials. He is serving seven years for a February conviction in Campbell County on one count of theft by deception of more than $300 and being a persistent felony offender. He will be up for parole in February 2004.

"Something needs to be done about this (stuff)," wrote Townsend. "I don't know how much it will help, but I am writing the attorney general about my treatment."

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E-mail jhannah@enquirer.com




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