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Ohio County Pays $115,000 to Settle Second Suit Over Restraint Chair Pepper-Spraying

by Matt Clarke

On January 8, 2019, Montgomery County, Ohio agreed to pay $115,000 to resolve a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by a former jail prisoner who was pepper-sprayed while “largely strapped into” a seven-point restraint chair.

Charles Wade was being booked into the Montgomery County Jail on October 17, 2016 when the arresting state troopers informed jail staff that he was intoxicated.

Video surveillance footage of Wade’s intake showed that he struck his head against a blue mat fastened to the wall while being searched. Sgt. John W. Eversole then ordered other guards to place Wade stomach-down on the floor, handcuff him and move him to the restraint chair. While Wade was on the floor, Eversole put his knee on the middle of his back. Wade asked why they were doing this as he was not resisting. 

According to his subsequent complaint, Wade was taken to the restraint chair and his legs and abdomen strapped in while he was still handcuffed behind his back and four guards held his head and upper torso. 

“At that point [guard Joshua] Lighter, under the semblance of removing [Wade’s] handcuffs manipulated [Wade’s] hand and wrist causing severe pain, injury and evoking a reaction from [Wade].” Eversole sprayed Wade in the eyes and face with a long burst of OC pepper spray from a distance of about one inch. Only after spraying him did Eversole say, “stop resisting.” Eversole then sprayed his face a second time with a long burst of OC pepper spray at close range. 

Wade was left in the restraint chair nearly 13 hours without being decontaminated. The spraying and lack of decontamination allegedly resulted in chemical burns to Wade’s eye, causing it to twitch involuntarily. 

With the assistance of Dayton attorney Doug Brannon, Wade filed a federal civil rights action against Eversole – who is married to Assistant Montgomery County Prosecutor Erin Claypoole – and other county and jail officials. After U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rose denied summary judgment on the claims against Eversole, the county settled the case for $115,000. 

Montgomery County had previously paid $375,000 to settle a similar lawsuit brought by Amber Swink, who was pepper sprayed while fully restrained in a restraint chair. On November 15, 2015, former jail Captain Judith Sealey was convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct for spraying Swink. [See: PLN, Aug. 2018, p.35].

Jail officials suppressed video footage of the Swink pepper-spraying, which did not emerge until a few months prior to the incident involving Wade. His complaint referred to Swink’s lawsuit and six others to demonstrate the jail’s “custom of tolerance or acquiescence” toward excessive use of force by guards. See: Wade v. Eversole, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Ohio), Case No. 3:17-cv-00051-TRM. 

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Additional source: daytondailynews.com

Related legal case

Wade v. Eversole