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Elderly Ohio Prisoner Beaten by Cellmate Despite Warning Guards, Who Cheered Attack

In a lawsuit filed in federal court for the Northern District of Ohio on March 18, 2024, state prisoner Darryl Smith accuses Mansfield Correctional Institution (MCI) guards of ignoring warnings he was being threatened by his cellmate, cheering when he followed through on those threats and assaulted Smith.

Smith, 72, is serving 102 months for arson and parole violations. He was held in protective custody (PC) at Turnbull Correctional Institution before a December 2021 transfer to MCI. But officials there allegedly ignored PC instructions from the state Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) and placed him in general population.

Within two months Smith notified them that cellmate Daniel Williams had alcohol and a homemade knife fashioned from a “spork” eating utensil, with which he had threatened Smith. Later that same day, on March 18, 2022, Williams made good on his threat and stabbed Smith. But rather than intervene, guards allegedly cheered on the attack, calling Smith a “snitch” and a child molester. According to his complaint, Smith has never been accused of child molestation.

Smith was taken to the infirmary, where photos were taken of his injuries only to be destroyed later, he said. He was also charged with fighting and placed in “the hole”—solitary confinement—where he remained for 11 days before his acquittal on the disciplinary charge. He was then returned to general population in a different cell.

Smith complained directly to Warden Tim McConahay about his ignored warning and about another guard, Inspector Lisa Booth, who reacted to a grievance he filed by telling Smith to “keep his mouth shut.” Booth allegedly retaliated by confiscating Smith’s legal documents, which she called contraband and had destroyed. The prisoner was also convicted of a related disciplinary infraction and banned from filing grievances for 90 days.

Not quite 18 months later, in September 2023, Smith was again disciplined with the same sanction after he was sucker-punched in the chow line by a fellow prisoner he’d never before met, Christopher Adams. Again, Smith said, video evidence from guards’ body-worn cameras was destroyed.

That’s when his complaint takes an interesting turn. During discovery for another case in state court, MCI officials produced documentation that Adams was disciplined for assaulting Smith on September 5, 2023. However, Adams had been released on parole two days before that. Warden McConahay then allegedly ordered records altered to show Adams was found not guilty.

Smith’s complaint further notes that neither assault he suffered was ever reported to the state Highway Patrol, in violation of policy. His suit names DRC Director Annette Chambers-Smith and other prison system officials. Smith is represented by Tallmadge attorney Larry D. Shenise. PLN will update developments as they are available. See: Smith v. Chambers-Smith, USDC (N.D. Ohio), Case No. 1:24-cv-00505.

 

Additional source: Advance Media Ohio

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Related legal case

Smith v. Chambers-Smith