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$375,000 Settlement for Ohio Woman Pepper Sprayed in Jail’s Restraint Chair

by Matt Clarke

In August 2017, a lawsuit brought by a woman who was pepper sprayed at the Montgomery County jail in Dayton, Ohio – despite being held in a restraint chair – settled for $375,000.

Amber Swink was 24 years old when police received a domestic disturbance call at a residence where she and her boyfriend were present. Swink, who was intoxicated, refused to step out when asked to do so by police. A scuffle ensued in which Swink was taken to the ground and handcuffed, and a police officer’s glasses were broken.

Swink was booked into the Montgomery County jail, where she screamed and banged on the window of her holding cell. Jail sergeant Judith L. Sealey told her to stop causing a disturbance or she would be pepper sprayed.

When Swink continued being belligerent, Sealey introduced pepper spray into her cell. Contrary to policy, that incident was not video recorded. Swink then ceased making a commotion, but was nonetheless placed in a restraint chair pursuant to Sealey’s orders.

After an hour-and-a-half in the restraint chair, Swink began yelling. Sealey then went to her cell and sprayed her face and body with a can of pepper spray, causing Swink to pass out. A medic summoned to the cell encountered an unconscious, fully-restrained Swink. He tried to wake her and cleaned some of the pepper spray from her face, then left her strapped in the chair.

Sealey did not file use of force reports for the two pepper-spraying incidents.

With the assistance of Dayton attorney Douglas D. Brannon, Swink filed a federal civil rights complaint against the Board of County Commissioners, Sheriff Phil Plummer, Sealey and other jail staff, alleging excessive use of force. According to court documents, Swink suffered disfiguring, debilitating and permanent injuries from the pepper spraying, which required her to seek medical treatment and caused psychological trauma.

Brannon gave a surveillance video recording of Swink being pepper sprayed in the restraint chair to the news media. Sealey, who had since been promoted to the rank of captain, was placed on administrative leave and the case was presented to the grand jury to consider felony charges, but no indictment was returned. The county decided to settle the case a short time afterwards. See: Swink v. Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Ohio), Case No. 3:16-cv-00392-WHR-MJN.

According to a November 14, 2017 news report, Sealey is now facing a misdemeanor assault charge in Dayton Municipal Court in connection with the incident.

“I believe it’s the wrong charge,” her attorney stated. “I believe they should not have charged her criminally.” 

Additional sources:,


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Related legal case

Swink v. Montgomery County Board of Commissioners