Multiple Indictments, Prison Sentences, for Guards and Officials at Violence-Plagued Cleveland Jail
by Ed Lyon
The year 2019 was a busy one for a grand jury in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Indictments were handed down for seven guards, a former associate warden and a former director of the county’s jail, located in Cleveland. They are among 11 current and former jail staffers to face criminal charges following a probe into prisoner mistreatment and corruption by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, with the aid of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The cases date back to 2018, during which eight prisoners died in the severely overcrowded lockup. An investigation released that year by the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) found the jail’s conditions inhumane, with a pattern of abusive behavior by guards including:
• withholding food as punishment,
• excessive use of force, and
• threatening those giving interviews to jail investigators.
As a result, one Cleveland judge has refused to sentence any non-violent convicts to serve time there.
Here’s a timeline of events and the main players:
February 2018: Two Guards Charged in Detainee Beating
Former guard John Wilson was charged with felonious assault on detainee Joshua Castleberry, who suffered a broken nose and lost several teeth in an encounter with Wilson after complaining about a sandwich. Wilson was also charged with interfering with Castleberry’s civil rights by refusing to allow jail medical staff to treat him. On September 25, 2019, a jury deadlocked on those charges and acquitted Wilson of unlawful restraint. At the same trial, jurors acquitted guard Jason Jozwiak of interfering with Castleberry’s civil rights and falsification.
Adam Chaloupka, a lawyer with the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said that guards have “a dangerous job” and deserve “wide latitude to sometimes use force in pursuit of their duties.”
“Jason’s been defamed,” declared attorney W. Scott Ramsey. “He hopes he can get his job back.”
July 2018: Two More Guards Charged in Another Detainee Assault
After jail surveillance video captured guard Robert Marsh securing detainee Chantelle Glass to a restraint chair and punching her in the face, he was fired and charged with assault. Fellow guard Idris-Farid Clark, who stepped in to discharge a 6-second stream of pepper spray directly into Glass’ eyes from a distance of mere inches, was also fired and indicted on assault charges.
Clark was also charged with evidence tampering and extortion after he allegedly obtained copies of video surveillance capturing a use-of-force incident involving another guard, and an FBI agent recorded a call during which Clark used the tapes to extort favorable testimony for himself. Marsh, who cooperated with investigators, pleaded guilty on November 18, 2019 and was sentenced to 30 days on March 10, 2020. Clark also pleaded guilty, and he was sentenced the same day to 18 months in prison.
August 2018: Warden Demoted, Sacked with Guard After Detainee Overdose Death
After an overdose left 47-year-old detainee Joseph Arquillo dead, warden Eric Ivey ordered a guard to turn off his body camera during the investigation. Ivey, a 28-year jail veteran, was charged with submitting a false report and demoted to associate warden in February 2019. The 2018 USMS report singled him out for special opprobrium. He pleaded guilty on October 3, 2019, and was given a $2,000 fine and a probated sentence in exchange for his ongoing cooperation with investigators and prosecutors.
One of those cases involved guard Martin Devring, who was on duty when Arquillo died. He was captured in surveillance video reading a newspaper while Arquillo writhed in agony nearby for nearly two hours until medical help arrived. Devring pleaded not guilty on October 3, 2019. His trial was set for February 2020 but was postponed until June 8.
November 2018: Jail Director Quits Ahead of Scathing USMS Report
On November 14, 2018, jail director Ken Mills abruptly quit, just a week before USMS released its report finding jail conditions inhumane. He was indicted on two counts of dereliction of duty, a second-degree misdemeanor.
He is also accused of lying to a Cuyahoga County Council committee in a May 22, 2018, meeting when he tried to block hiring nurses at the jail. Just a few weeks later, the jail recorded the first of that year’s deaths.
Mills, who had no previous corrections experience before he was hired in 2015, was paid $120,000 a year. He pleaded not guilty to the charges on October 24, 2019. His trial date has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
March 2019: Two Guards Beat Mentally Ill Detainee
On March 22, 2019, after securing mentally ill detainee Terrance Debose in a restraint chair, guard Nicholas Evans turned off his body camera. But jail surveillance video kept recording as he and guard Timothy Dugan dragged the chair into a cell. There, Evans, 35, allegedly punched the 47-year-old Debose six times in the face with closed fists. Dugan, 40, reportedly struck Debose twice in the face, also with closed fists. The guards then left the concussed and bleeding Debose restrained in the chair and alone for a two-hour period.
“Inmates do not surrender their human dignity along with their freedom,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. “These two men abused their authority to pound a prisoner strapped to a chair. We wouldn’t stand for a dog to be treated like that – let alone by someone exercising the authority of the State.”
On October 15, 2019, Evans pleaded guilty to attempted felony assault and evidence tampering charges. He faced a maximum six-year prison term. He refused to cooperate with investigators on other jail-related cases. Dugan pleaded guilty at the same time to lesser charges of attempted abduction and misdemeanor assault. He faced a maximum two-year term. Unlike Evans, Dugan cooperated with investigators on other jail-related cases.
Debose’s attorney, Paul Cristallo, called it “unfathomable” that neither guard was disciplined. Both were placed on unpaid leave initially, but later resigned. On February 26, 2020, Evans was sentenced to nine months; Dugan got 10 days in jail.
Three Other Guards Charged
with Moving Contraband
Guard Brian Price had been on the job six months when video surveillance captured him giving his iWatch to convicted home invader Roderick Gilcrease in November 2018, just a week after the prisoner was acquitted on a murder charge stemming from a gas station shoot-out that left a 26-year-old man dead. Gilcrease was convicted on lesser charges in that incident.
Price denied giving the watch to Gilcrease. He also claimed he removed the watch because it restricted his circulation, and he is diabetic. But he agreed to enter a diversion program that will wipe his record of the charges.
In a more serious case of contraband, guards Stephen Thomas and Marvella Sullivan, along with prisoner Lamar Speights, were indicted in September 2019 on charges they with ran a drug ring inside the jail. The guards allegedly smuggled cellphones, vape pens and drugs — including heroin, fentanyl and marijuana — in exchange for cash payments delivered by Speights’ sister and the girlfriend of another jail prisoner.
The investigation that snared the two guards began after the January 2019 overdose of prisoner Kelly Angle, who allegedly received drugs they smuggled. Both guards resigned. No trial date has been set.
Sources: businessinsider.com, cleveland.com, news5cleveland.com, vice.com