Attorney says excessive force lawsuit against Alcoa, Blount County ‘could have been avoided’

The Daily Times

A $2 million excessive force lawsuit pending against the city of Alcoa and Blount County government would have been unnecessary if law enforcement had recognized obvious mental health issues and provided appropriate care, the attorney who filed the suit said this week.

Knoxville attorney Lance Baker told The Daily Times on Friday that his client, 38-year-old Maryville resident Annissa Mary Lee Colson, was showing obvious signs of a panic attack following her arrest nearly two years ago.

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Inmate’s attorney, law department trade written blows in beating lawsuit

flack-louis3-e1424728118227With the taxpayer meter running, opposing attorneys in the case of a videotaped beating of a mentally ill Knox County jail inmate are bloodying each other in the battle over legal fees.

Taxpayers have already forked out $200,000 for the actions of Knox County Sheriff’s Office employees in the November 2014 beating of inmate Louis Flack Jr.

But the tab for taxpayers in what the Knox County Law Director’s Office admitted was a violation of Flack’s civil rights is still running with a legal fight between Flack’s attorney, Lance Baker, and Deputy Law Director David Wigler over how much Baker and others on Flack’s legal team should receive for their work on the case.

In recent filings in U.S. District Court, the battle has turned ugly.

“What a gift for a young lawyer!” Wigler wrote in suggesting Baker, his paralegal and two assisting attorneys are charging “exorbitant” fees for what Wigler contends was a slam­dunk case.

Baker, in turn, accuses Wigler and the KCSO of adding to the expense of the case by playing hide­and­seek with documents before a settlement was reached and of “stonewalling, disinformation, misrepresentation, feigned ignorance, and a complete lack of cooperation” by Wigler after a deal was struck.

Baker seeks roughly $114,000 in legal fees and expenses for himself and his team.

Video showed Flack, clearly identified as mentally ill by the jumpsuit assigned him, was in the throes of a psychotic break when KCSO staffers stormed his cell, threw him facedown on the concrete floor and beat and kicked him even after he was fully restrained. More abuse of Flack was captured on video after the assault, with Cpl. David Sparkes grabbing Flack by his hair and pulling his head up as a nurse treated Flack, even though the inmate was not struggling with the nurse and still remained in a psychotic state.

Baker had been appointed to represent Flack in Knox County General Sessions Court in a domestic assault case, which was later dropped when — nearly three months after the incident — the video surfaced and Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones was forced to publicly acknowledge the beating. Jones fired Deputy Nicholas Breeden, who can be seen on video punching Flack after he was restrained, suspended Sparkes for five days and suspended jailer Christopher Fustos, who kicked and kneed the restrained inmate, for two days. Breeden faces trial on official misconduct and assault charges in the Flack incident.

Baker learned of the video of his client via WBIR­TV, which first aired it in January 2015. Records show he agreed to pursue a lawsuit on behalf of Flack under what’s known as a contingency arrangement in which the lawyer would not be paid for time and expenses unless Flack won money. Wigler contends the video all but forced the county to admit wrongdoing, so there was little legal fight when Baker filed the civil­rights lawsuit in November 2015.

“Indeed, Knox County never denied liability,” he wrote.

But Baker contends the KCSO refused to turn over public records and did not disclose a second video that was longer than the one aired publicly, far more detailed and included audio when Baker was trying to investigate the incident in anticipation of filing a lawsuit. He said in his motion that added to his work and his bill for it.

Knox County offered Flack $100,000 soon after the lawsuit was filed. Baker rejected that. Four months later, in March, the county offered $200,000 for Flack. Baker accepted it. But the issue of legal fees remained.

With the ink still wet on the settlement, another fight broke out between Wigler and Baker over exactly what had been agreed to in terms of legal fees, including whether Baker should take a financial hit for releasing that second video to the media while the lawsuit was pending.

“What transpired over the next 3 months (was) a series of actions that included stonewalling, disinformation, misrepresentation, feigned ignorance and a complete lack of cooperation by the Law Director’s Office (that) threatened to unravel the settlement,” Baker wrote.

Wigler denies that and says Baker was stalling so Knox County would drop its demands for sanctions over the release of the second video and should not be allowed to bill taxpayers for that.

“As it turned out, Mr. Baker was essentially holding up his client’s settlement for over three months to avoid responding to the pending motion for sanctions,” Wigler wrote.

Wigler said Knox County has offered Baker $35,000 in legal fees and expenses.

A judge will decide how much taxpayers should pay for Flack’s legal representation. Taxpayers also will have to pay for a private attorney the law department hired to represent the individual officers, except Breeden. A cost for that has not been made public yet.

Jamie Satterfield, Knoxville News Sentinel, September, 5, 2016.

State Farm Policyholders Win Class Cert. In $1B RICO Suit

State Farm Policyholders Win Class Cert. In $1B RICO Suit

Law360, Los Angeles (September 16, 2016, 11:38 PM EDT) — An Illinois federal judge Friday certified a class of State Farm policyholders who had filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act suit against the insurer and several others that allegedly funneled money into a state judge’s election campaign to evade payment of a $1 billion judgment.

LexisNexis: Mark Hale, Todd Shadle, and Laurie Loger, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company




Alcoa officers, Blount deputies targeted in police brutality suits

KNOXVILLE — A Knoxville attorney is taking law enforcement in Alcoa and Blount County to federal court for a combined $8.25 million, claiming his clients were victims of excessive force and policy brutality when they were arrested within two weeks of one another last June.

Attorney Lance K. Baker has filed two separate lawsuits in Knoxville’s U.S. District Court, one over the arrest of a 67-year-old former businessman who was a hit-and-run suspect; the other on behalf of a 36-year-old single mother booked on charges of DUI, assaulting an officer, resisting arrest and felony reckless endangerment.

The two Maryville residents suffered from mental or cognitive disorders and were victims of law enforcement brutality, according to the lawsuits.

The first lawsuit, filed June 10, stems from the arrest a year earlier of Larry Glen Hodge at the hands of BCSO deputies. The Blount County government, Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong and several deputies are defendants in the $6.25 million suit.

As Hodge died in December, the litigation was filed on behalf of Hodge’s widow, Judy R. Hodge.

Deputy Accused of Going ‘Rogue’

Hodge, who suffered from advanced vascular dementia, was arrested after the side mirror of his pickup collided with the side mirror of another vehicle on a narrow section of Russell Hollow Road, the suit states. About 45 minutes later, he was pulled over and arrested by BCSO Deputy Henry Vaughn, a property and evidence technician who had not been a patrol deputy since 2006, according to the suit.

t the time of the stop, Vaughn was driving an unmarked vehicle and dressed in green camouflage pants and a “Polo-type shirt,” according to the suit. Vaughn parked his unmarked truck alongside Hodge’s, the suit states, before going “rogue,” pulling a gun on Hodge and demanding he exit the vehicle.

Vaughn is then accused of pulling Hodge out of the vehicle when the 67-year-old was slow to react, throwing him to the ground and assaulting him.

“Vaughn suddenly grabbed Mr. Hodge by the wrist and shirt collar, violently jerked him out of his truck and flung Mr. Hodge hard and face-first to the pavement,” the complaint reads. “(Vaughn) punched at Mr. Hodge, twisted Mr. Hodge’s arms behind his back and cuffed his wrists behind his back, all while Mr. Hodge lay in a prone position, bleeding profusely from his head, face and nose.”

The suit states Vaughn had a history of using excessive force, and in 2005 was convicted of assaulting a female neighbor while off duty. The suit also states Blount County government attorney Craig Garrett confirmed Vaughn, as an evidence technician, does not normally respond to patrol calls.

The BCSO, including several supervisors named in the suit, are accused of conducting a sham investigation and failing to discipline Vaughn.

In addition to Vaughn, Berrong and Blount County, the following BCSO personnel are also defendants in the suit: Deputy Kevin Clendenen, Detective Doug Davis, Lt. Doug Moore, Capt. Jeff Clark, Deputy Chief Ron Talbott and Deputy Chief James Long.

Blount County General Sessions Court records show Hodge was facing charges of leaving the scene of an accident and resisting arrest. They were dismissed in January following his death, court records show.

The lawsuit states Hodge’s physical and mental condition declined following the arrest, and contributed to his death six months later.

Alcoa Arrest

The second lawsuit, filed June 23, is also targeting Blount County and Berrong, along with several BCSO corrections officers, the City of Alcoa, Alcoa Police Chief Philip Potter and several Alcoa officers.

Stemming from the June 23, 2015, arrest of then 36-year-old Annissa Mary Lee Colson, the $2 million suit alleges Colson was brutalized and tormented by Alcoa officers BCSO jailers.

Colson was arrested on charges of assaulting an officer, resisting arrest, DUI and felony reckless endangerment, in addition to being cited on charges of violating the implied consent law, violation of the due care law and registration violation.

Her case is still pending in Blount County General Sessions Court, with another hearing currently scheduled for July 7. She remains free on bonds totaling $5,5000.

Child Fled

Colson’s arrest came after her then 10-year-old son fled from her vehicle in the area of Springbrook Road and North Wright Road around 7:30 p.m., according to the lawsuit and a prior police report.

The 10-year-old told officers his mother had been drinking at Springbrook Pool and began speeding down the road when they left, according to the police report.

The child said he got scared and pulled the emergency brake, causing the vehicle to stop, police said. He told officers he jumped out of the vehicle, a black Toyota RAV4, and took off running.

The first officer to arrive reported seeing Colson’s vehicle driving through the field toward the wood line where her son was standing. Colson then lost control and ran into a ditch line, where the SUV came to rest on an embankment, the report said.

The lawsuit states Colson wrecked her vehicle into a ditch while trying to retrieve her son.

Police said Colson smelled of alcohol and refused to perform field sobriety tests. When officers placed her under arrest, she reportedly refused to follow commands, but eventually stood up and put her hands behind her back.

Knee Injured

Two officers — Dustin Cook and Arik Wilson — transported Colson to Blount Memorial Hospital for a blood alcohol test, but once they arrived she refused to take the test, the lawsuit and police report state.

Police contend Colson became “extremely belligerent and combative” when instructed to get back into the cruiser. However the lawsuit states Colson suffers from severe anxiety and had “a severe panic attack” when told police were going to obtain a search warrant for a blood draw.

Cook and Wilson are accused in the lawsuit of ignoring Colson’s obvious signs of mental distress and refusing to giver her time to catch her breath.

According to the police report, officers heard Colson’s right knee “pop” as they struggled to get her back into the cruiser. Colson complained briefly about her knee, the report said, but continued resisting. During the struggle, she kicked one of the officers in the left knee, the report said.

The lawsuit, however, states Colson’s knee was injured when Wilson “violently kicked/kneed (Colson).” The lawsuit states this fractured Colson’s right leg and caused tears to her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and LCL (lateral collateral ligament).

Officers said they were eventually able to get Colson back inside the cruiser and across to the jail, where a jail nurse examined the 36-year-old’s knee. The nurse said Colson’s knee appeared fine, and there was no swelling or visible injury to the area, the report said.

The lawsuit accuses the nurse, Jennifer Russell, of performing a “slipshod” and “abbreviated” examination which failed to identify Colson’s injuries.
According to the police report, Colson became combative with corrections officers and had to be placed in a restraint chair. Officers obtained a search warrant to perform a mandatory blood draw, at which point Colson reportedly caused more problems.

Corrections officers restrained Colson, however she still became combative, the report said. She also bit or tried to bite Mandy England, a BCSO corrections officer, police said.

Further Abuse Alleged

The lawsuit rebuffs that assertion as well, stating that Colson was trying to “nudge” England’s hand away with her chin. England and several other corrections officers are also accused of tormenting Colson.

The abuse reportedly included placing a helmet on the claustrophobic Colson while she was strapped in the restraint chair. Corrections officers also denied Colson the opportunity to use a toilet, leading to her urinating on herself “in front of a cadre of laughing” officers, according to the lawsuit.

For about five hours, “Colson remained alone in a cell, arms and legs restrained, in a helmet, with a fractured leg, torn ACL, torn LCL, with contusions, abrasions and bruises all over her body,” the lawsuit states.

Colson was released on bond about 7 1/2 hours after Wilson injured her knee, according to the lawsuit.

The officers named in the suit are accused of ignoring what is described as a “severe mental disorder” and “disability” for Colson.

Police Reactions

The Blount County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on either piece of pending litigation. County attorney Craig Garrett could not immediately be reached for comment.
Alcoa Police Chief Philip Potter said he had not yet been served with the Colson lawsuit, and had not yet read the complaint.

“I would just say that the (Alcoa) Police Department intends to vigorously defend our officers’ actions and our actions in this, and we will defend ourselves in court when it’s the appropriate time,” Potter told The Daily Times. “But other than that, we really couldn’t comment on the pending litigation.”

A request from The Daily Times for body camera footage from the arrest has been received, said Alcoa Police Capt. Phillip Dunn. Due to the pending litigation, Dunn said they are waiting for approval from Blount County District Attorney General Mike Flynn to release the video.

O’Briant said any video the BCSO might have would need to be requested from Garrett, who could not immediately be reached.

Wilson, Cook, Russell and England are all listed as defendants in the Colson suit. Alcoa Police Lt. Keith Fletcher is also a defendant.

Family sues Blount County Sheriff’s Office for millions


BCSO’s first deputy on the scene, Henry Vaughn, said Hodge was resisting arrest, but the Hodge family attorney, Lance Baker, said Vaughn took a minor traffic accident too far.

“He’s unfit,” said Baker. “His actions were deplorable, inexcusable,” said Baker.

Court documents show Hodge side swiped another car, taking out it’s side mirror. When Vaughn showed up to the alleged hit and run call on Russell Hollow Road last June, Baker said Vaughn was in plain clothes, drove an unmarked car and never identified himself as a deputy.

“As he exits the vehicle, he already has a gun drawn,” said Baker.

Baker said Vaughn violently jerked the 67-year-old man with early on-set dementia out of his truck, then “threw Mr. Hodge onto the pavement face-first, punched him and grabbed and twisted Mr. Hodge’s arms behind his back.” That’s according to a federal lawsuit asking for more than $6 million in damages.

Deputies took Hodge to jail. His attorney says it was only when Hodge’s family bonded him out that Hodge received medical treatment.

“He lived another six months, but his quality of life changed dramatically,” said Hodge. “He never drove again, he never worked around the house, he was practically non-functioning,” Baker continued.

Baker said millions will never replace a man, who ultimately lost his life to what he and Hodge’s family call excessive force.

“It’s not about money to them, it’s just not, okay,” said Baker. “They don’t want this to happen to anybody else,” he added.

Brutalized inmate reaches settlement with Knox County


A settlement agreement has been reached between Knox County and Louis Flack, the mentally ill former inmate who was at the center of a 2014 jail beating captured on video.  The footage showed jailers punching and kicking him after he was cuffed, placed into a hog-tied position, and rendered defenseless.

Flack and his attorneys initially sought $5 million after filing a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District court late last year. On Friday, though, the parties agreed to settle. Attorneys on both sides, though, declined to say for how much.

But, Flack’s attorney, Lance Baker, said Flack and his family are happy with the settlement.

“It was one of those things that was hard to turn down,” Baker said. “They’re happy and that’s the most important thing. There should be plenty to take care of him and his long-term need.”

The county and Baker will still have to reach an agreement on the attorney fees.

Flack, 54, was in custody at the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility on Maloneyville Road in November 2014. Authorities initially arrested him for burglary and aggravated assault, although the charges were later dropped.

On the afternoon of Nov. 28, correction officers were trying to transport him to a different holding cell, but Flack – who was locked in his cell – refused to stick his hands through a sliding panel in the door so that officers could cuff him.

The guards, in order to extract Flack from the cell, rushed in and beat him, even after he was restrained, according to videos of the beating obtained by WBIR 10News.

Two months after the beating, Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones fired jail employee Nick Breeden and suspended Cpl. David Sparkes and Chris Fustos without pay after reviewing the camera footage.

Sparkes was the supervisor on duty at the time of the Nov. 28 incident.

An internal review found the men used “techniques that violated policy” and use-of-force options taught by the department.

Jail employee Jesse Rudd also resigned amid the probe.

Breeden was later charged with official oppression and assault in connection with the beating.

The charges against Flack were eventually dropped and in November 2015 his attorney filed a $5 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court that accused the county, the sheriff’s office and six employees of violating Flack’s civil rights, using excessive force against him, inflicting emotional distress and violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Last month, the county law department sought and was granted judicial mediation by Clifford Shirley. The mediation, which happened on Friday, lasted more than four hours.

Baker on Monday said Flack “is doing much better,” and is a patient at Helen Ross McNabb.

“They’ve been taking great care of him,” Baker said. “He’s on medication daily and receives daily visits from a social worker, and they’ve done a great job with him.”

(© 2016 WBIR)

Taxpayers to pay for sheriff’s deputies’ beating of mentally ill inmate


Taxpayers will foot the bill for the beating of a mentally ill inmate by Knox County Sheriff’s Office corrections officers, federal court records show.

A settlement in the $5 million civil-rights lawsuit filed against Knox County and five KCSO staffers in the November 2014 videotaped beating of Louis Flack was announced Monday in a conference with U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley, according to a docket sheet in the file.

“The parties advised the court they had reached a settlement in this matter,” the docket sheet stated.

Flack’s attorney, Lance Baker, confirmed a settlement but did not release the amount.

Knox County Law Director Richard “Bud” Armstrong said the settlement won’t be finalized until motions on an earlier issue are resolved. He said he would release the settlement agreement once those motions are resolved and the deal finalized.

Baker said the settlement will allow Flack to continue to receive needed mental health treatment. An agreement on attorneys fees has not yet been reached, records show.

“It was a hard offer to turn down at this point,” Baker said. “Mr. Flack is very happy with the settlement. His family is happy with it. This amount ensures he can be taken care of and continue to receive the mental health treatment he needs for a very long time.”

Video of the beating shows Flack was in the throes of a psychotic break at the time of the incident. He also was clad in a lime green jumpsuit KCSO has designated for inmates with a history of mental illness, putting jailers on notice of the need to follow certain protocols, including the summoning of a mental health counselor.

No such counselor was summoned in Flack’s case.

Instead, the videotape showed officers stormed into Flack’s cell when he refused to place his hands through a slot to be handcuffed. He was thrown to the floor and, while facedown and his legs immobilized, punched and repeatedly kneed in the back.

One of the deputies, Nicholas Breeden, is shown on the videotape punching Flack after he was handcuffed. He was later fired and charged with assault and official misconduct, but Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones took no action against Breeden or the other officers for nearly three months and only after WBIR-TV learned about the video and sought its release.

Christopher Fustos, the officer shown repeatedly kneeing Flack while he was facedown but before he was handcuffed, was not charged or fired. He was suspended for two days and has since filed a lawsuit against the county, saying he was unfairly treated.

Cpl. David Sparkes, who ordered the intrusion into Flack’s cell, narrated the video, watched the beating and later is shown grabbing Flack by his hair and pulling his head upward as a nurse treated Flack, was suspended for five days. Officer Jesse Rudd, who held Flack down, resigned before the video was made public. Officer Spencer Solomon, who also held Flack down, was not punished.

Flack has a long history of mental illness and was being held in the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility on Maloneyville Road on an assault charge involving a relative. That charge was later dismissed.

Armstrong opted to use outside counsel to represent all the officers except Breeden, who has a private attorney, so taxpayers also will pay for that representation.


Ex-Hamblen Co. inmate sues for $5M over jail beating


MORRISTOWN – A former Hamblen County inmate says he was brutally beaten over a $38 debt by another inmate who was paid two boxes of pop tarts to attack him while he slept.

On Friday, he filed a $5 million civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

Named as defendants in the 51-page federal complaint are: Hamblen County, Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnagin, sheriff’s Captain Teresa Laws, two corrections officers and 10 unnamed sheriff’s office employees.

Through a spokesperson, Jarnagin said county attorneys have advised him not to comment due to the pending litigation but “at a future date” he would issue a statement.

The former inmate, Jeremy Garcia, says he was “viciously attacked” Feb. 26, 2015 by Kaleb Enix, who was later charged for the assault.

The lawsuit says jail officials had a number of opportunities to avert the beating and were repeatedly warned that Garcia’s safety was in jeopardy.

In addition, it says the jail is overcrowded and understaffed, and that authorities don’t separate inmates by their varying degrees of crimes, like many jails in the state do.

The lawsuit also accuses authorities of concealing details of the incident because the county so far has refused to turn over reports and videos that detail the incident.

“While he was in Hamblen county’s custody he was brutally beaten by another inmate. That fact is undisputed,” said Garcia’s attorney, Lance Baker. “We believe that the county, the sheriff, the jail administrator, and the corrections officers not only violated Mr. Garcia’s civil rights, but we further believe that the beating, and Mr. Garcia’s injuries, could have been prevented if only Hamblen County would have taken basic and reasonable measures to protect him from harm they had every reason to know was coming.

Baker added: “When a county takes inmates into custody, they have a duty to protect them. Here, unfortunately that duty was ignored.”

Jeremy Garcia says he was “viciously attacked” Feb. 26, 2015 by Kaleb Enix, who was later charged for the assault.

Jeremy Garcia says he was “viciously attacked” Feb. 26, 2015 by Kaleb Enix, who was later charged for the assault.

According to the complaint, here’s what happened:

Garcia, who is described as an “intellectually-disabled 40-year-old” from Knox County, was arrested in early September 2014 on a misdemeanor theft charge and placed in the Hamblen County Jail.

While there, he was “threatened, harassed and intimidated,” by “The House,” a small group of inmates who secure food and tobacco for the other inmates.

Garcia at the time was kept in the jail’s annex, a 24-bed unit.

Fearing for his life, Garcia repeatedly asked jailers to move him. His mother also contacted administrators who finally placed him in another area of the jail. Garcia pleaded guilty to the theft charge and was released at the end of September 2014.

Authorities, however, arrested him in February 2015 for violating his probation. He was again put in the annex.

The lawsuit says the area was overcrowded – almost 90 inmates packed the area – and Garcia was forced to sleep on the concrete floor. Shortly into his second stint in the jail, “House” members again threatened him, saying he owed them $38 from his previous stay.

Garcia requested a transfer, but authorities declined.

One guard, according to the lawsuit, even told him: ““Ah, Garcia, you got this, my money is on you.”

On the afternoon that he was attacked, he handed a note to a corrections officer that said: “I’ve got problems in this Annex. I need to get out ASAP. I am in fear of my life!”

The lawsuit says the officer told him: “We’ll do something.”

But, around 10 p.m. that night a member of the “House” asked Kaleb Enix, who was jailed earlier that day on a domestic assault charge, to “beat up” Garcia while he slept.

He did.

The lawsuit notes that Enix “repeatedly punched him” in the head and face more than a dozen times.

Witnesses, according to the lawsuit, said it “sounded like a hammer thumping (Garcia’s) face each time Enix made contact,” and that Garcia’s “face just kept bouncing off the jail’s concrete floor.”

The beating stopped after another inmate intervened and notified a guard.

“Either the corrections officers were not paying attention or they were simply indifferent to the attack,” the lawsuit states. “Every other inmate simply stood idly by and watched the beating.”

A witness said “House” member Jessie Killion told Enix he would give him two boxes of pop tarts and other commissary items if he would “beat” Garcia.

Garcia suffered multiple facial fractures, including severe damage to his eyes and nose, according to the lawsuit. He underwent emergency surgery at the University of Tennessee Medical Center that evening.

The lawsuit says he suffers memory loss and moderate depression because of the beating.

Man sues Hamblen County officials for $5M over jail beating

MORRISTOWN (WATE) – A Hamblen County man is suing for $5 million, saying he was brutally beaten at the county jail by another inmate, a situation allegedly caused by indifference by jail officials and overcrowding.

Jeremy Garcia, 40, who is “intellectually disabled” according to the suit, had been repeatedly threatened by a group of inmates called “The House” in September 2014 and was transferred to another part of the jail. In February 2015, according to the suit, Garcia was incarcerated again at the jail, described as “overcrowded and understaffed.”

Garcia’s attorney says in the suit that he realized the men who previously threatened him were still in the jail and pleaded to not be housed with them, but his pleas were ignored. Then, according to the suit, a member of “The House” paid another inmate to beat Garcia while he slept on the jail floor, leading to multiple broken bones in his face, several cuts and bruises, a concussion and a hemorrhage in his eye.

Web Extra: Read the full lawsuit [PDF]

The suit says Garcia had to undergo emergency surgery, requiring plates and screws to be inserted into his face. Garcia was also left with post-traumatic stress and severe cognitive difficulties which require ongoing therapy.

One inmate was charged with and indicted for aggravated assault and is awaiting trial, but the suit says no other inmate was charged and no jail staff members were reprimanded or disciplined.

Garcia’s attorney says policies, customs and/or practices have turned the jail into a “house of mayhem” where inmates are packed together, poorly supervised, unmonitored, not properly separated and housed in a building not conducive to inmate safety.

Garcia is seeking compensatory and punitive damages totaling $5 million, plus medical costs, court costs and attorney fees.

Former Hamblen Co. inmate sues for $5 million after alleged jail beating


MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WVLT) — A former inmate of the Hamblen County Jail, Jeremy Garcia, is suing the Hamblen County government, Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnagin, Captain of the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department Teresa Laws, corrections officers Dustin Tharp and Eric Rice, and about 10 anonymous employees of the sheriff’s department.

In the lawsuit, Garcia says a “violent and angry” inmate was paid to beat him while he slept on the floor of the jail. Court documents say the defendants in the case had chances to avert the attack after several warnings that Garcia’s safety was in jeopardy.

The lawsuit says Garcia has intellectual disabilities and was repeatedly threatened, harassed and intimidated by men affiliate with a ring of violent inmates, known as “The House.” Garcia was transferred to another area of the jail.

Months later, when Garcia was incarcerated again, he asked corrections officers to not house him with his aggressors, but, according to the lawsuit, his request was denied. That’s when a member of The House solicited another inmate to beat Garcia.

Documents claim Garcia had his mother call the sheriff and jail administrator to move him, but that never happened.

That’s when Garcia claims he was beaten by another inmate. His injuries included multiple fractures to his face, a concussion, a cut on his scalp and a hemorrhage in his eye. Garcia needed emergency surgery. The lawsuit says Garcia has post-traumatic stress and needs on-going therapy for “severe cognitive difficulties.”

The inmate was charged with aggravated assault.

Documents also accuse defendants of turning the jail into a “house of mayhem” by packing inmates together in the overcrowded jail, poorly supervising with an understaffed and under-trained staff, not monitoring the jail, not separating inmates based on criminal classification, and housing the inmates in a building that’s not conducive to safety.

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