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$150,000 Settlement in Tennessee Jail Beating

Sullivan County, Tennessee has paid $150,000 to settle the claim of a former prisoner who was beaten at the county’s jail. The suit alleged the sheriff’s department failed to properly train and supervise jail guards, deliberately placed the prisoner in a dangerous situation, and neglected to treat his injuries after he was assaulted by other prisoners.

In 2006, Nathaniel Robinson was taken to the Sullivan County Jail to serve an 18-month sentence for failure to appear and violation of probation. Robinson, an African-American, was placed in a cellblock with only one other African-American and about 35-40 white prisoners.

Robinson claimed in his subsequent lawsuit that it was “readily apparent” that “a number of white supremacist, gang related” prisoners were present in the cellblock. After “a racially motivated television program” aired on the morning of August 1, 2006, Robinson and the other African-American prisoner become the subject of racial slurs and threats.

For his own safety, the other African-American prisoner was moved by guards to a different cellblock, leaving Robinson as the only African-American in the unit. Shortly thereafter, Robinson was struck in the back of the head; he woke up lying on the floor. Guards then moved him to another cellblock.

Robinson was given a medical evaluation but was returned to his cell without treatment. Three hours later he was found unconscious and transported to a local hospital, where he underwent two surgeries to repair a subdural hematoma. He woke up after six weeks, unaware of what had happened.

On August 11, 2006 a judge ordered Robinson’s release on furlough, while he was still hospitalized, which relieved the county of his medical bills because he was no longer in custody.

The settlement in this case was reached in February 2009. It provides for the outstanding medical bills to be paid from the $150,000 settlement, with Robinson receiving the remainder. The amounts of the medical bills and attorney’s fees were not disclosed. Robinson was represented by Nashville attorney Benjamin E. Waters and Kingsport attorneys R. Wayne Culbertson and Julia C. West. See: Robinson v. Sullivan County, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Tenn.), Case No. 2:07-cv-00101.

Additional source: Times News

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Related legal case

Robinson v. Sullivan County

Please see the brief bank for documents related to this case.