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Former inmate files suit
Oct 22, 2004 12:00 am
A victim in one of the alleged jailhouse beatings which resulted in federal charges against nine former Wilson County jail guards has filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages as well as a permanent court order against the facility.
The U.S. District Court lawsuit was filed by former jail inmate Kenneth McIntyre, who has been identified as one of the prisoners victimized in a series of beatings which focused scrutiny on the jail and eventually resulted in charges against a total of nine former guards, five of whom were named in a wide-ranging conspiracy indictment returned by a federal grand jury in July.
In the lawsuit, filed on McIntyre's behalf by Nashville attorney Jerry Gonzalez, the alleged victim claims he was repeatedly kicked and beaten by guards and was threatened by several top jail officials, including Sheriff Terry Ashe, former jail supervisor David Hemontolor Sr. and Lt. Eddie Fitzpatrick.
McIntyre alleges he sustained broken ribs and needed stitches to close several cuts as a result of the brutality and that jailers intentionally denied him medical care for several days.
The suit also alleges McIntyre's attempts to contact federal authorities about his treatment behind bars was intentionally stymied by jailers, who he claims searched his cell to uncover and confiscate documents detailing his complaints.
In the suit McIntyre also maintains he witnessed the beating of another inmate identified by U.S. Department of Justice investigators as a brutality victim as well witnessing "jail guards taking money from inmates during the booking process."
Wilson County Attorney Mike Jennings said he had seen the lawsuit, noting the action was brought outside the typical 12 month statute of limitations in such a case.
"My immediate question is why was this brought after three years when there is a one year statute of limitations," Jennings said. "In addition, Sheriff Ashe denies all of this. We believe this is one that can and should be defended."
The 18-month federal investigation of the jail resulted in July's indictment charging former second shift supervisor Sgt. Patrick Marlowe, former Cpl. Gary Hale and ex-jailers Shane Conatser, Robert Bryan Ferrell and Robert Locke. All are charged with conspiracy and a variety of civil rights violations as a result of alleged inmate beatings.
Four other guards – John McKinney, William Westmoreland, Travis Bradley and Chris McCathern – pleaded guilty to charges filed by federal prosecutors before the indictment was handed down.
McIntyre's lawsuit alleges he was beaten by Bradley, Westmoreland and Marlowe – named in the indictment as a "leader and manager" of the alleged conspiracy – inside his cell, where earlier guards had taunted him with "homosexual jokes" after he requested medication for a bipolar disorder.
The former inmate claims he was "restrained on the floor while all three...continued to beat him by kicking him" with Marlowe remarking "If you ever try to spit on me again, I'll kill you."
In the lawsuit McIntyre claims he then suffered a second beating at the hands of McKinney and David Hemontolor Jr. which ended only when McKinney remarked "it's bad enough."
The suit claims the inmate was left restrained and "bleeding on the concrete floor" by the two and that other jailers refused to report his injuries or provide medical care.
Fitzpatrick, the suit alleges, "refused to take pictures" of McIntyre's injuries when asked and instead "slapped plaintiff in the face."
The lawsuit says McIntyre was "eventually" taken to University Medical Center, where x-rays revealed broken ribs and stitches were applied to some wounds, with Fitzpatrick telling medical personnel the prisoner "had fallen and hit his head."
McIntyre alleges he then "told the nurse that was not true and explained what really happened. No one at UMC ever called the police or otherwise reported that a patient had reported being assaulted."
The suit claims that the following morning McIntyre received an intimidating visit inside his cell by a stun gun-wielding Ashe surrounded by "approximately eight or nine deputies."
McIntyre claims Ashe "would activate the gun, making a clicking sound from the electric charge, and would hold it up to plaintiff's face saying, 'How would it feel if I hit you with this? Why don't you jump up on me like you did to Hemontolor?'"
The inmate said Hemontolor Sr. then said in Ashe's presence, "If you ever put a hand on my son again I'll put a bullet through your head."
About one hour later, the lawsuit claims, McIntyre was then inexplicably transferred to Rutherford County.
But in his absence, the suit alleges, the inmate found that forms he was using to file a formal complaint with federal authorities about his treatment were confiscated from his cell.
Also upon his return, the suit alleges, Hemontolor Sr. – who left the jail last year to take a job with the Wilson County Road Commission – told the inmate's mother "if he ever comes back to Wilson County or puts his hands on my son, I'll kill him."
Calling the alleged statements by Hemontolor and others "multiple threats," McIntyre's lawsuit says the former prisoner took them "seriously and feared for his life or the life of his family members if he were ever to be found in Wilson County."
After his release from custody, the suit claims, McIntyre "took immediate steps to have his probation transferred" out of county and "continuously feared" that if he pursued complaints of brutality against jailers then Hemontolor Sr. "would carry out his threat to murder him."
The suit names Ashe, Marlowe, Westmoreland, Bradley, Fitzpatrick, McKinney and Hemontolor as well as his son as defendants, along with an unknown officer.
The suit asks for a jury to determine the amount of damages and also seeks a permanent injunction against the jail "requiring training on the appropriate use of force."
The lawsuit is one of several filed on behalf of former inmates by Gonzalez, the most recent alleging a widespread pattern of denying medical care to prisoners.
The five former guards charged in the indictment are scheduled to stand trial late this year. The four who have already pleaded guilty to charges contained in federal informations have yet to be sentenced.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.