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Update: Montgomery County, Ohio Pays $10 Million to Settle Jail Lawsuits

by Ed Lyon

On May 19, 2017, Sgt. Thomas Freeham forcefully shoved Tonya Varney into a cell at a jail in Montgomery County, Ohio; Varney was reluctant to enter the cell because it appeared to have urine on the floor.

She was taken to the Miami Valley Hospital later that day for treatment of injuries she sustained as a result of Freeham’s use of force. That turned into a three-day hospital stay, which revolved around open reduction and internal fixation surgery requiring follow-up care and physical therapy, all at a cost to taxpayers of $92,635.67.

Despite the surgery, follow-ups and physical therapy, Varney claimed she will be disabled with markedly reduced hand functions for the rest of her life.

Montgomery County agreed in late July 2019 to settle Varney’s lawsuit by paying $187,500. She was represented by Dayton, Ohio attorney Kenneth J. Ignozzi. See: Varney v. Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, U.S.D.C. (S.D. OH), Case No. 3:18-cv-00155-TMR-MJN.

PLN previously reported several other lawsuits involving prisoners whose claims were being considered for settlement by Montgomery County, including a wrongful death suit filed by the family of Robert A. Richardson, Sr., 28, who died after jailers placed him on his stomach, cuffed his hands behind him then knelt on his back, crushing him to death. [See: PLN, Jan. 2019, p.24]. The county agreed to a $3.5 million settlement in that case in January 2019.

Additionally, in June 2019 the county and its insurers paid $5.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of homeless veteran Joseph Guglielmo, 61, who was beaten by four jailers in 2015 while two other guards blocked the field of view of the surveillance camera in front of his cell. He is now permanently injured, uses a wheelchair and requires full-time care.

“I can’t give my mom or my sister a proper hug,” Guglielmo stated. “I can’t work any longer. I’m sitting here in a diaper.... All my dignity is gone.”

Former jail prisoner Charles Wade was placed in a restraint chair and repeatedly pepper sprayed by Sgt. John Eversole because he accused jailers of violating his rights. He remained in the restraint chair for over two hours, and settled his subsequent civil rights suit for $115,000 on December 5, 2018. The settlement was reached after the federal district court dismissed several defendants but allowed other claims in the case to proceed. See: Wade v. Eversole, U.S.D.C. (S.D. OH), Case No. 3:17-cv-00051-TMR. 


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Related legal case

Wade v. Eversole