Eight employees were arrested at Georgia’s Clayton County Jail in 2023, including guard Jalen Clausel. He was taken in five days after Sheriff Levon Allen said the guard let four detainees assault a fifth on October 28, 2023. None of the detainees was named.
Earlier that same month, guard Desiree Lowery, 27, was accused of smuggling contraband to detainees and fired on October 8, 2023. In an oddly verbose statement, the Sheriff’s Office said she “exchanged her employee badge number for an inmate LE number, exchanged her officer title for an inmate title, exchanged her blue uniform for an orange uniform, and exchanged her clean record for four felony charges.”
Before that, jail nurse Geraldine Layura Moore was accused in July 2023 of dropping a plastic bag of Percocet pills in a trash bin for detainees to retrieve. The month before, contractor Iyana Dixon was charged with swiping a detainee’s credit card while shopping at Macy’s. A fellow contractor, Sarai Ali, was also arrested and charged with being a party to the crime and obstructing or hindering law enforcement officers.
In May 2023, another jail nurse, Jessica Castellanos, was arrested for smuggling contraband to detainees, as was guard Tabitha Clifton. That same month, guard Sean Hollinshead, 34, was arrested for a “vicious attack” on a detainee.
Six More Guards Accused but Not Indicted
On July 13, 2023, a grand jury decided not to indict a half-dozen other former jail guards accused of causing the fatal heart attack of a mentally ill detainee they were attempting to restrain in November 2022.
Surveillance video recorded the six former guards—Ellonte Johnson, Randy Gaddy, Dionte McCauley, Fred Denson, Derrick Doyle and Danilo Jones—as they piled on detainee Terry Lee Thurmond, 38, who was moving toward a second-level balcony railing in what they called an apparent attempt to jump. One Tasered the detainee. All six remained atop him for 10 minutes, according to the coroner’s report.
“They suffocated him to death,” declared civil rights attorney Thomas Reynolds, who is representing Thurmond’s survivors. He called the beat-down “George Floyd 2.0”, except “there was six of them, on top of [Thurmond] for 16-18 minutes and they stayed on top of him well after he was lifeless and stopped resisting.”
Thurmond had been in custody less than an hour for allegedly trespassing at an airport. Responding emergency personnel found him “pulseless and CPR [was] initiated.” He died at a hospital the next day, November 29, 2022. The coroner subsequently ruled his death a homicide.
Just a month before that, former Sheriff Victor Hill was found guilty of using excessive force on detainees he strapped into a restraint chair for lengthy periods. As PLN reported, Hill was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in March 2023. [See: PLN, Apr. 2023, p.61.]
“The abuse of detainees in that system is rampant and widespread,” Reynolds said. “I mean, no other sheriff’s department that I’m aware of in the nation has had a former sheriff convicted of federal inmate abuse.”
More Indictments in Camden County
Meanwhile, on the other side of the state, a trio of deputies working at the jail in Camden County got their own indictments on May 19, 2023. A grand jury charged former Sheriff’s Dep. Ryan Biegel and former jail guards Braxton Massey and Mason Garrick with misdemeanor battery and simple battery, plus a felony count of violating their oath of office, for a violent encounter in September 2022 that injured a detainee.
Jarrett Hobbs, 41, who is Black, had been jailed on drug charges following a traffic stop when surveillance video captured the two guards and their fellow deputy—all of them white—as they charged Hobbs’ cell and began punching him. They then put the injured detainee in a restraint chair and left him in solitary confinement, without medical care.
“They are beating people indiscriminately inside this jail,” said civil rights attorney Harry Daniels, who is representing Hobbs.
He noted that the state Bureau of Investigation did not take up the case until he obtained the video and provided it to them. Sheriff Jim Proctor then fired the three guards in November 2022. Zyaire Ratliff, 23, another Black client of Daniels’ whose beating by a guard was captured on surveillance video in March 2023, called the lockup “a place where they make their own rules and whatever they say goes.”
Charges pending against Hobbs were dropped in February 2023 by Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney (D.A.) Keith Higgins. He replaced disgraced former D.A. Jackie Johnson, who was indicted in September 2021 for showing favoritism to a white former employee and his son, after they were accused of running down and fatally shooting a Black jogger, Ahmaud Arberry, 25, in February 2020. Johnson ultimately recused herself from the case, as did three more prosecutors with ties to the pair, Greg and Travis McMichael McMichaels. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) then assigned Cobb County D.A. Joyette M. Holmes, who obtained convictions against both McMichaels, and they were sentenced to life in prison in August 2022. An accomplice, William “Roddy” Bryan, was also convicted and sentenced to 35 years.
Sources: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CNN, Georgia Current, WAGA, WXIA, Washington Post
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