Sheriff Settles Suit for $30,000

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It seems Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. doesn’t like speaking under oath in a court of law, and wants taxpayers to pay to help him avoid it.

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit filed by a former Justice Center inmate over an August 2007 incident in which he was shot three times by a pepperball gun at point blank range while already incapacitated.—-

The settlement was offered after a three-judge panel rejected Leis’ claim in early 2009 that he had qualified immunity and couldn’t be forced to testify in the lawsuit, and later rejected motions to dismiss the case.

On Aug. 10, 2007, Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies forcibly removed inmate Michael Jackson from his cell and placed him in a restraint chair. Jackson had caused a disturbance earlier and got mouthy with the corrections officer, Sgt. Michelle Moore. After he was restrained, Jackson, who is white, used a racial epithet against Moore, who is African-American.

The lawsuit alleges Moore violated Jackson’s civil rights and used excessive force in the incident and that Leis condoned the action, which violates the inmate’s right against cruel and unusual punishment. Three of Moore’s supervisors who had watched a videotape of the altercation concluded Moore used excessive force and should be penalized by attending three counseling sessions, but Leis overturned their decision and didn’t impose a penalty against Moore, prompting the lawsuit.

A videotape of the incident taken from jail cameras has been posted on YouTube.

Moore’s use of the pepperball launcher was “gratuitous and cruel,” according to Al Gerhardstein Jr., Jackson’s attorney.

“Through cases like this, government is held accountable for abuses of power,” Gerhardstein said. “Hopefully, this settlement will cause Hamilton County, Ohio, deputies to respect the rights of inmates in their custody.”

The corrections officer, Moore, can regularly be seen going about her duties in some episodes of a reality TV show called Inside American Jail in syndication and simply Jail on the TruTV cable network.

Some police reform advocates have said one of the best methods for limiting misconduct is to require law enforcement agencies to have their subsequent annual budget reduced by the amount it pays out in lawsuits.

That seems like a reasonable suggestion, and one we urge Hamilton County commissioners to pursue later this year.

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