Man injured at jail sues former deputy, Sheriff Jim Neil

I-Team uncovered several cases of excessive force

CINCINNATI -- A Silverton, Ohio man filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against former deputy Jason Mize and Sheriff Jim Neil, saying Mize tossed him into a wall and left him bleeding in a jail cell.

Mark Myers, 62, alleges he suffered cuts to his head and a broken hip at the Hamilton County Justice Center last August. Myers says Mize and the sheriff violated his constitutional rights and that he was a victim of battery at the jail. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and attorney's fees.

The lawsuit comes eight days after an I-Team investigation revealed several instances of excessive force at the Justice Center, including Myers' case. The I-Team found Neil has disciplined 14 corrections officers for violating his use-of-force policy since he took office in 2013. Half them received counseling letters, the lowest level of discipline.

Experts said the findings raise questions about whether the sheriff hands out enough punishment when corrections officers mistreat inmates.

I-TEAM: Is sheriff too lax about excessive force?

Maj. Charmaine McGuffey, commander of the jail since 2013, said she was ousted late last week because she, too, questioned how Internal Affairs handled use-of-force investigations.

For the incident with Myers, records show McGuffey called for Mize to be arrested and fired. It was his fourth use-of-force violation since the sheriff's office hired him in August 2007.

Mize's personnel file contains no documentation of discipline taken against him for his use of excessive force against Myers. He resigned from the sheriff's office Feb. 25.

As part of its reporting, the I-Team obtained footage of Mize shoving Myers into a holding cell. Myers was being booked on a misdemeanor theft charge; he was later acquitted.

 

At the jail, nurse Shari Battle interviewed Myers before he could go into a cell. The interview is a normal part of the intake process, and Myers declined any medical treatment. Myers' lawsuit says he asked Battle if he could get his cellphone to call his family.

The sheriff's internal investigation report said Myers was "emotionally upset, belligerent and wanted to use the phone." According to a transcript of her interview with an investigator, Battle said Myers wasn't acting any more upset than anyone else being booked into jail. His behavior, Battle said, wasn't unusual. Both Battle and Myers' lawsuit say he wasn't profane or aggressive.

"Defendant Mize overheard Mr. Myers' requests and became inexplicably angered," the lawsuit states.

Mize, a corrections officer, ordered Myers to walk to a holding cell to calm down, the sheriff's internal investigation said. After Myers stood up, Mize grabbed his arm; the internal investigation report said Myers wouldn't walk to the cell as ordered. Battle told an investigator she noticed Myers seemed to have a limp.

Investigators determined Mize pushed Myers toward the cell; Myers resisted "because he had an unknown injury to his low extremities and was unsteady on his feet," their report said.

Mize then shoved him head-first into the holding cell, the report said. Myers hit a concrete half-wall.

 

According to the sheriff's report, Mize told a sergeant he "had to toss someone into the cell," but that he didn't use force and the inmate wasn't injured.

The lawsuit says Mize left Myers bleeding on the floor and slammed the door. His actions, the lawsuit states, lacked "even the most basic humanity."

When Myers cried out for help, Battle called for a life squad. She recalled telling a co-worker, "I hope he's not dead."

A supervisor told Mize to start filling out paperwork on his use for force, the report said.

"It looks as if it's a pretty egregious use of force case," Christine Cole said. Cole is vice president and executive director of the Crime and Justice Institute, which provides nonpartisan policy analysis, consulting and research on public safety.

Myers' injuries were so serious the sheriff's office sent the case to the Criminal Investigation Section. Just a few months ago, in December, the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office declined to present the case to a grand jury, even though Myers wanted Mize to be charged.

Tuesday's federal lawsuit is the second against Mize. Another, filed against him and other officers in 2010, was for an incident at the jail in January 2008. At that point, Mize had been working for the sheriff's office for just five months; he was still on probation. The sheriff's office paid out a monetary settlement. There is no record of the incident in his personnel file.

Neil's office is the defendant in another federal lawsuit filed last week. Terry Collett, 65, of Dearborn County, Indiana, alleges two special deputies injured him with a "rough ride" in a prisoner transport van on June 6, 2015.

When they arrived at the jail, medical staff refused to accept Collett because of his injuries, according to the lawsuit.

Terry Collett in the hospital (photo provided by Collett's attorney)

Collett was treated at University of Cincinnati Medical Center for lacerations to his right elbow and a carpal bone fracture to his left wrist, according to the lawsuit.

The special deputies were not retrained, counseled or disciplined for the incident, Collett's lawsuit states. Special deputies are unpaid volunteers who have completed the Ohio Basic Peace Officer Academy, according to the sheriff's office. They are uniformed and armed, but only serve in an auxiliary or supplemental role.

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