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June 12, 2014

Jail abuse claims leads to class action lawsuit against Floyd County

Floyd commissioner, sheriff, officers named in suit by 4 plaintiffs

NEW ALBANY — Four plaintiffs are suing a Floyd County commissioner, the sheriff and various officers on claims they were “stripped, held naked, tortured, humiliated and abused” by jail staff.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday, June 12, in U.S. District Court in New Albany by the law firm Clay Daniel Walton & Adams PLC and announced by attorney Laura Landenwich via email to media.

The plaintiffs: Tabitha Gentry, 32, New Albany; Vincent Minton, 23, Nabb; Michael Herron, 36, Henryville; and Adam Walker, 31, Georgetown, seek actual and punitive damages. They also have filed on behalf of other inmates who may have received treatment similar to their treatment.

The lawsuit notes there are “potentially hundreds of members of this class.”

Named in the lawsuit are: Sheriff Darrell Mills, Floyd County Commissioners President Mark Seabrook and several officers with the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department.

Attempts to reach Mills for comment were not successful. Seabrook said he could not comment at this time.

In the complaint, Landenwich claims that since June 2012, all the plaintiffs listed in the complaint “were forcibly stripped of their clothing, and kept in a state of undress for prolonged periods of time, whether as a punitive measure, or as a torture method, or under the pretext of a search and seizure, or any other reason.”

The complaint continues that while the plaintiffs were held in this state they were subjected to, “pepper spray, Taser or other unnecessary and unwarranted means of excessive force ... ”

Landenwich claims the treatment took place by jail staff without “reasonable, individualized suspicion or probable cause required by law.”

The plaintiffs allege that their unclothed bodies were exposed to jail staff of the opposite sex and that their exposed bodies were subject to “harmful and extremely offensive touching.”

The complaint states that the plaintiffs were regularly deprived access to restroom facilities, and they were forced to relieve themselves in a drain in the floor.

In the complaint, Landenwich claims Mills failed to employ qualified persons for the authoritative positions.

Landenwich asserts that the defendant’s conduct was “intentional or grossly negligent, or indicated active malice toward plaintiffs ... ”

According to the complaint, each of the plaintiffs claim similar experiences in jail. The allegations that preceded their arrivals to the jail included public intoxication, disorderly conduct, resisting law enforcement, intimidation and operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

A detailed account of Gentry’s allegations were printed in Thursday’s News and Tribune.

Walker’s claims of mistreatment at the jail, are similar to his co-plaintiffs, and provide the most extensive details of his incarceration in May.

The Army veteran and small business owner claims, through the complaint, that an argument ensued after a correctional officer winked at him while he sat without handcuffs on a bench in the jail.

Walker was thrown to the ground by three officers, according to the complaint, and he was then handcuffed.

“While handcuffed, officers Tased Walker seven times and choked him until he lost consciousness,” the complaint reads. “Walker regained consciousness while being dragged into the ‘padded cell.’”

Like the other plaintiffs, Walker claims his clothing was forcibly removed by the jail staff.

“Defendants left Walker alone in the cell with nothing to cover himself,” according to the complaint, and after a period of time and complaints that he was cold, a smock was provided.

When he asked to use a restroom, “He was told that the drain in the floor was the bathroom,” according to the complaint.

Landenwich claims Walker was in the cell for approximately 18 hours before he was given a jumpsuit and a mat to lie on.

Walker claims while in the jail he saw another inmate forcibly stripped by officers and put into another padded cell.

“ ... Walker witnessed the officers pulled the detainee’s feet out from under him so that the detainee fell to the floor headfirst and knock out his teeth,” according to the complaint.

In the complaint, Walker is described as suffering from a variety of combat injuries, including a gunshot wound, spinal-compression fracture, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress.

While being held in the jail’s booking area for four days, “jail staff refused to provide him with medications, including anti-seizure medication and antibiotics.

“When Walker advised officers that he needed seizure medication, an officer told him, ‘Well, you’d better not have a seizure,’” according to the complaint.

Landenwich is claiming each of her clients had their constitutional rights violated during their incarcerations at the jail.

“[The treatment] is intolerable in a civilized society, and presents a marked departure from the standard to which the Western world adheres for the treatment of prisoners of war during wartime, let alone the standard of acceptable treatment for American citizens on American soil,” Landenwich states in the complaint.

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