Saturday, June 19, 2004

Another ex-inmate claims abuse

Man says guards took his wheelchair, injured him, forced him to crawl

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - A former Grant County jail inmate filed a federal civil rights lawsuit this week against the detention center, alleging abuse and failure to provide adequate medical care.

The suit by Roy Cobb, a Northern Kentucky resident, is the latest in a series of federal suits against the jail since February 2003 when an 18-year-old high school student was sexually assaulted while locked up overnight on traffic violations.

Many of the claims have similarities: Prisoners contend they were injured by guards and denied medical treatment. Some of the suits claim medical treatment was denied in an attempt to cover up the abuse, while others claim the jail skimped on medical care to save money.

Jail attorney Tom Nienaber couldn't be reached for comment Friday, but Jailer Steve Kellam has previously denied any wrongdoing. He says his jail is safe.

While no guards were charged in connection to any of the alleged assaults, three former inmates were found guilty last year for their roles in the sexual assault of the teenager.

Attorney Don Nageleisen of Covington is representing Cobb and five additional former prisoners who claim abuse. While a federal judge threw out several suits by former inmates who were representing themselves, Nageleisen said five of his suits against the jail are in mediation.

Nageleisen said he gets about one call a week from current and former inmates alleging abuse at the jail and plans to file at least one more federal suit.

"Although conditions at the Grant County jail have drastically improved, there still are significant problems with the jail," Nageleisen said. "There have been some personnel changes and the staff is better trained, but Mr. Cobb was still abused."

Cobb, who is disabled, claims guards took away his wheelchair, slammed his legs inside a cell door and refused to give him medical treatment following his arrest on July 30, 2003. He was arrested on an assault charge after his wife claimed he hit her with crutches.

The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Covington, names Kellam, the jail, Grant County Fiscal Court, a deputy and "unknown staff members at the jail" as defendants.

Cobb says he was denied a wheelchair and made to crawl to get around the jail.

The suit also alleges the jail was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The jail's former nurse, named as a defendant in at least four of the suits, has filed her own suit against the detention center.

Sandra Cook of Williamstown claims she was fired for reporting suspected violations of federal and state laws at the 300-bed facility.

The suit claims Kellam ordered Cook to carry a two-way paging device at all times but refused to compensate her when she responded to a medical emergency. Cook says she was forced to falsify time cards to make it appear she worked less.


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