Editor’s note: An I-Team investigation found more than a dozen lawsuits against area jails claiming inmates were beaten, raped, medically neglected or killed in jail. In addition to possibly costing taxpayers dearly, advocates for inmates say these cases suggest a failure of the system to protect vulnerable people in public custody. Read our full investigation here.
As Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer faces mounting lawsuits alleging mistreatment of inmates at the county jail — spurring county commissioners to request a federal review — he said his office has presented criminal charges to the prosecutors against one of his own.
That Sept. 28, 2015, incident — which is captured by surveillance footage — has not led to a lawsuit.
Corrections officer Jerrid Campbell was suspended for 10 days after an internal investigation found he broke departmental policy when he punched inmate Daryl Wallace. Campbell said the inmate was upset about the lack of hot water, was yelling obscenities and being disruptive.
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Campbell admitted to violating the confrontation policy of jail employees but fought the charge of excessive use of force and using his handcuffs to strike Wallace.
“We’ve charged people for … we attempted to charge a current corrections officer for what we claimed to be a beating and charges weren’t taken,” Plummer said in a press release following the commissioners’ request for an expanded federal investigation. “And that’s caused me internal problems also, but we try to do the right things. My people know if they break the law, they’re going to be held accountable.”
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A 156-page internal investigation obtained by this news organization through the Ohio open records law shows sheriff’s office detective Walt Steele did present the case against Campbell to assistant county prosecutor John Amos on Nov. 5, 2015.
The prosecutor wrote that there was “insufficient evidence to charge any felony” noting that Campbell was the only officer in D-Pod and that “Det. Walt Steele agrees with the refusal.”
Misdemeanor charges also were denied by Dayton City prosecutors, according to the report. The incident happened about six weeks before Sealey pepper-sprayed Amber Swink while the Brookville woman was confined in a restraint chair.
Campbell: Unequal treatment
Campbell filled out a employee complaint form alleging that other corrections officers weren’t treated as harshly as he was.
Sealey, he said, “didn’t file a use of force report for pepper spraying one (inmate) in the restraint chair … then Judith Sealey gets promoted to a captain. WOW!”
Campbell also referenced the case of homeless veteran Joseph Guglielmo, who alleged in a federal lawsuit that he was beaten into a coma by former Sgt. Matthew Snyder and other jail employees. Snyder wasn’t disciplined by the department but requested a voluntary demotion and pay cut soon after the incident. Plummer has said the request was for personal reasons unrelated to the jail altercation.
“Where was criminal detective Walt Steele? Where was Internal Investigator David Parin?” Campbell wrote. “How does Matthew Snyder still have his job and purposely steps down to a deputy, like he’s punishing himself.”
Campbell said neither Sealey nor Snyder had criminal or internal investigations initially opened against them.
“Jerrid Campbell tried criminally, use of force class, and a 10-day suspension without pay,” he wrote. “Judith Sealey maybe a letter of caution for all that she did.”
Plummer said he hasn’t heard from the FBI in the past few weeks regarding its investigation and doesn’t know when it will be complete.
“I’d love to know,” he said. “I need to get either disciplinary procedures started or I need to get a captain back so I can make progress in my jail.
Cornwell said Ohio’s sheriffs aggressively investigate allegations of misconduct by their officers — not to minimize lawsuits but because it’s the right thing to do.
“When one of our employees is wrong, we admit they’re wrong and discipline them,” he said. “The sheriffs are very steadfast in their desire to run an efficient operation, a good operation and a fair operation.”
Montgomery County Capt. Judith Sealey is on administrative leave while federal investigators and Dayton police look into a November 2015 incident in which she pepper-sprayed a restrained inmate in the jail. Records from the incident have since disappeared.
Other cases that led to internal investigations obtained by this newspaper did not result in discipline against an officer.
“Discipline is a good thing,” said Jennifer Branch, who represents plaintiffs in several local suits, adding that when a department takes no action against a misbehaving employee, it “ratifies” the behavior, making the county more culpable.
The eight lawsuits filed against Montgomery County include four alleging excessive use of force. With so many allegations swirling around the sheriff’s office, the three county commissioners — all Democrats — sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting a civil rights probe.
That letter brought a strong response from Sheriff Phil Plummer, who said it was “politically charged.” Plummer is chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party.
“I have very dedicated people working hard for the citizens of Montgomery County,” Plummer said of his jail staff.