- By Josh Sweigart Staff Writer
Fallout from the November 2015 pepper-spraying of a restrained inmate at the Montgomery County jail has included a federal probe, the creation of a jail oversight committee, mounting legal costs from accusations of inmate mistreatment and neglect, and a criminal charge against a now-retired captain.
Most recently, the Dayton Daily News obtained a copy of an internal investigative report that found no evidence of an alleged cover-up but concluded a video and other evidence of the incident disappeared from public records after being sent to the jail commander.
This follows an exclusive interview with a retired jail sergeant who told the Daily News how that video got into the hands of a local attorney who brought national attention to it.
Here is a timeline of the incident, assembled from Dayton Daily News coverage:
Nov. 15, 2015: Judith Sealey, then a sergeant at the Montgomery County jail, pepper-sprays inmate Amber Swink while Swink was strapped into a seven-point harness. Fellow Sgts. Eric Banks and Ransley Creech say they saw video of the incident that night. Swink also had been pepper-sprayed earlier in the day but no video was taken.
Nov. 16, 2015: Sealey says she filed required paperwork and video and told her supervisor, Capt. Charles Crosby, about it. Crosby reportedly called his supervisor, jail commander Maj. Scott Landis, while Sealey was in his office. Sealey says Landis responded: “We do not pepper spray people while they are restrained in the emergency restraint chair and not to do it again.” Crosby says he sent the video and paperwork to Landis and expected an investigation for improper use of force.
Dec. 10, 2015: Banks says he brought up the Sealey pepper-spraying with Crosby, who was also his supervisor, and Crosby alluded that there was an investigation.
Dec. 16, 2015: Internal email notes that files from a computer drive holding all use-of-force photos and videos was deleted. Banks and Creech say they went into the camera that captured the Swink incident – which writes over itself every 56 days – and made a copy to make sure it was preserved.
Feb. 4, 2016: Sealey becomes first minority woman in the Montgomery County sheriff’s office to be promoted to captain.
Feb. 19 2016: Maj. Scott Landis, then commander of the jail, tells internal affairs Sgt. Dave Parin he can’t find a copy of the video or use of force report. This was around the same time Parin received a tip that two jail sergeants had a copy of the video and were considering a lawsuit.
February 2016: Landis meets with Chief Deputy Rob Streck and tells Streck there are “grumblings” in the jail about Sealey not filling out a use of force report. Streck tells Landis to carry out whatever discipline is appropriate.
March 3, 2016: Sealey gets a letter of caution issued by Landis for completing “all required reports except for 1.”
April 26, 2016: Sealey complains to Banks and Sgt. Ransley Creech that Chief Deputy Rob Streck told her there’s a video floating around of her pepper-spraying an inmate, according to Banks. She says that she filed paperwork, but command staff is making her take discipline for not filling out the forms.
June 2016: Banks says he and Creech met with their union attorney, who recommended calling the FBI and hiring private representation. Banks says he called the FBI and a Cincinnati law firm that didn’t call him back. They end up giving the info to Dayton attorney Doug Brannon.
June 20, 2016: Brannon’s law firm requests use-of-force records and video of the Swink incident.
July 5, 2016: Crosby sends a memo saying the records can’t be found. “I reviewed the original report when it was completed and it had the required use-of-force report, video and restraint (chair) log attached,” he wrote.
Sept. 13, 2016: Brannon files a lawsuit on behalf of Amber Swink and posts a video of the pepper-spraying online.
Sept. 14, 2016: Media reports reveal details of lawsuit, including allegations of cover-up. Within days, Banks said he was visited by federal agents.
Sept. 14, 2016: Sheriff Phil Plummer tells the Dayton Daily News: “(Sealey) shouldn’t have sprayed (Swink) in the chair. I’ll admit she was at fault. She was dealt with. … (Swink) was, according to the report, yelling and screaming, and (Sealey) sprayed her. It’s nothing we train and condone and that’s why she’s disciplined for it. She made a mistake.” RELATED: Montgomery County sheriff’s office sued over pepper spray incident
October 2016: Sealey is placed on paid leave.
October 2016: Landis is demoted from major to captain after he was caught on an audio recording -- made by Creech -- making comments about a black corrections officer that an internal affairs investigation deemed innapropriate. Creech was suspended for one day for making the recording.
October 8, 2016: The Dayton Daily News reports on Sealey’s use of force history, including incidents of Sealey pepper-spraying inmates through jail cell food ports. Sealey was not investigated or disciplined for use of force; the letter of caution she received was for not filing paperwork.
November 2016: The Dayton Daily News I-Team reports federal agents are looking into case, as well as Dayton police.
Feb. 28, 2017: Landis retires from the sheriff’s office.
March 2017: A court document filed by Montgomery County in Swink’s civil case confirms the FBI, Dept. of Justice’s civil division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Dayton police are investigating the incident.
May 1, 2017: Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck says a grand jury declined to bring felony charges against Sealey; doesn’t rule out possibility of misdemeanor charges.
May 8, 2017: Sealey returns to work from administrative leave.
July 11, 2017: Sheriff’s office is notified that Sealey has applied for medical retirement.
Aug. 17, 2017: County officials confirm they settled the Swink lawsuit for $375,000.
Nov. 8, 2017: Sealey is charged with one count of misdemeanor assault after Dayton prosecutors ask Cincinnati to review case to avoid conflict. The case is still pending in Dayton Municipal Court.
Nov. 22, 2017: Banks provides deposition in a federal lawsuit brought by a man who alleges he was left permanently disabled after being beaten by guards at the Montgomery County jail. In his deposition, Banks alleged the sheriff’s office tried to sweep that use-of-force incident under the rug as well.
December 2017: Banks says he hasn’t heard from federal investigators in a year, and questions whether the federal probe is ongoing.
Jan. 2, 2018: An internal affairs investigation into the incident is concluded, finding Creech violated department policy by taking the video and his concerns to the FBI but not taking them up the chain of command. The investigation finds no wrongdoing by Crosby. The report says the FBI was unable to determine how the V-Drive files were deleted: “Although Special Agent Whalen had indicated this investigation was inconclusive regarding potential criminal federal violations, their investigation is still pending.” The investigative report was obtained by the Dayton Daily News after the sheriff’s office refused to release it saying it is part of a criminal investigation.
Jan. 26, 2018: Creech is terminated.