County Jail inmates file suit13 men accuse guards of retaliatory beating
Friday, September 15, 2006
by Michael Higgins
Thirteen inmates at the Cook County Jail say that guards severely beat them last month in retaliation for another inmate's alleged attack on a correctional officer, leaving them with black eyes, bruises, chipped teeth and other injuries, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.
The plaintiffs say that they were not involved in the altercation with the guard on Aug. 16, yet were beaten by other correctional officers who responded to the incident.
"From the way my clients describe it, it was a jail-guard riot," said Richard Dvorak, attorney for the 13 men. "They just started indiscriminately beating people: Kicking, punching, stomping. Several of these injuries occurred while these inmates were in handcuffs."
Sheriff's officials disputed that on Thursday, saying that no inmates were seriously hurt. They said some inmates received minor injuries because they refused to get down on the floor while correctional officers searched for the guard's attacker.
The jail has been beset with problems in recent years, from a series of security breaches earlier in the year that included a gun being smuggled into a maximum-security area to two escapes in February. Dozens of inmates also have been injured in inmate-on-inmate stabbings.
The lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court alleges that "numerous" sheriff's deputies participated in the beatings, but does not identify any by name. The county and Sheriff Michael Sheahan are named as defendants in the suit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages.
Authorities say the incident began at about 8:15 a.m., when Officer William Baker opened the door to an inmate day room to check on whether inmate Maeceo Dickey needed medical help.
Dickey, 39, of Chicago, forced his way through the door and punched Baker, according to Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for State's Atty. Richard Devine. She said Dickey threw Baker against a wall, where his head hit a metal box, and "slammed his head to the floor repeatedly."
By the time other correctional officers arrived, Dickey had run back to his cell and the officers had to search for him, sheriff's spokesman Bill Cunningham said Thursday.
They ordered all of the inmates to lie down, but "several of the inmates refused ... and had to be forcibly taken down to the floor," Cunningham said. "Some of the inmates had minor injuries--scratches and bruises. None of them had injuries consistent with being beaten."
Baker was hospitalized for five days, Cunningham said. He suffered cuts above his eye and in the back of his head, which required more than 30 stitches.
Prosecutors charged Dickey with attempted murder and aggravated battery. He is set to be arraigned Sept. 25.
Dvorak said Thursday that his clients had not refused to comply with the guards' orders and, in fact, had cooperated by identifying Dickey.
He also said that photographs would show that his clients' injuries were not minor. He said, for example, that Dwond Donahue, 30, of Chicago was beaten all over his body.
"His head was swollen--swollen like a pumpkin," Dvorak said. "His eyes were just blood red."
Dvorak said the incident occurred in a medium-security wing of the jail and that most of his clients had been awaiting trial on drug or other non-violent offenses.
He said that the guards beat his clients either to extract information from them or for "pure retaliation."
The jail has been hit with lawsuits in recent years regarding alleged inmate beatings. Last year, a Cook County jury found that seven correctional officers did not use excessive force in an alleged beating in 2000.
In a separate lawsuit, two former jail guards alleged that they were subjected to harassment and threats, and eventually forced to resign, because they refused to cover up the incident in 2000. That case is pending.
The plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit are: Donahue; Kevin Curtis, 19; Jerome Fountain, 36; Bernardo Garcia, 35; Darryl Johnson, 39; Mustafa M-Ali, 26 , Eddie Macon, 31; Archie Mitchell, 48; Bernard Rhone, 32; Roberto Segura, 22; and Jamaar Turner, 18, all of Chicago and Jarrod Rodriguez of Hammond, and Edward Sanders of Des Plaines.