Denver is trying to change the subject away from troubles at the city's sheriff's department. But doing so is costly.
A day after Sheriff Gary Wilson resigned (and news broke that interim chief Elias Diggins has a criminal record), City Attorney Scott Martinez announced a deal to pay $3.25 million to settle a lawsuit filed by inmate Jamal Hunter that resulted in revelations of porn, pot, drunkenness and brutality at Denver's jail.
Below, we've included a June 13 post about the Hunter suit, including original documents, videos and images that same readers may find disturbing. The complaint was filed in 2012 against the City and County of Denver and individual law enforcers, who former inmate Hunter accused of failing to properly protect him after he says inmates scalded his genitals with boiling water and two deputies attacked him.
The later assault was captured on surveillance video, from which the following image is culled:
The man on the right in this photo is Deputy Thomas Ford. He's not mentioned by name in Hunter's lawsuit, but he subsequently became the center of attention after a video surfaced showing him punching out a non-violent inmate. Here's that clip.
The video's seventeen seconds appear to have inspired Denver mayor Michael Hancock to finally make changes at the department, accepting Wilson's resignation as sheriff (he's still a division chief) and appointing Diggins to fill in until a permanent hire can be made. But the Hunter matter continued to cast a shadow. Hence the decision to pony up $3.25 million to make it go away.
The payout, announced at a press conference yesterday featuring Martinez and Hunter attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai, still must be approved by the Denver City Council. If it is, as expected, it'll likely be the largest settlement of its type in Denver history.
The previous high-water mark appears to have been set in 2008, when the city paid $3 million following the death of Emily Rae Rice, whose sad end was detailed in a 2006 Westword feature article, "Rae of Sunshine." Here's how Adam Cayton-Holland, the article's author, summarized the piece at the time of the settlement:
Emily went out for some smokes while intoxicated early on the morning of February 19 of . She subsequently got into a car accident and was taken to Denver Health, where doctors cleared her to be booked into jail on suspicion of drunken driving. While behind bars, Emily cried out in pain and even fainted, but was ultimately ignored by nurses and guards, who told her to stop being dramatic. Other inmates pleaded for assistance for Emily, but none was ever given, and after spending a night in agony, she died. An autopsy revealed that Rice had a seven-inch cut to her liver, a lacerated spleen and three broken ribs.
As Cayton-Holland noted, attorneys for Rice's family felt that the money offered by the city was secondary to changes in protocol at Denver Health and the jail intended to "ensure that nothing like this ever happens in the City of Denver again."
Hunter's story was different from Rice's, but it demonstrates that plenty of problems remain at Denver jail. Here's a 7News report about the latest developments, followed by our previous coverage of the Hunter lawsuit.
Continue for previous coverage of the Jamal Hunter lawsuit, including videos, documents and images that some readers may find disturbing. Update 9:50 a.m. June 13: In September 2012, we told you about a lawsuit filed by Jamal Hunter against the City and County of Denver and individual law enforcers for failing to properly protect him before and after he says inmates scalded his genitals with boiling water and two deputies attacked him.
Now, a judge has unsealed documents that offer new and shocking info about the case, including references to porn, pot, on-duty drunkenness and brutality. Continue for details, documents and additional photos that may be disturbing to some readers.
As we've reported, the lawsuit notes that Hunter was arrested on April 29, 2011 on what's described as a "misdemeanor domestic charge" and placed in the Denver Detention Center's fifth-floor pod with a cellmate named Chris, "who snored loudly and frequently defecated on himself during his sleep."
As a result, Hunter requested that he be transferred within the same pod. Instead, he was sent to another one, where an inmate with Tourette's syndrome had a profane outburst in the shower. No fight actually took place, the suit maintains, but Hunter was shipped to another pod anyhow -- and this one "housed residents facing more significant criminal charges than his own," including some who were actively abusing drugs.
Again, Hunter complained, asking to be jailed alongside less dangerous inmates -- but the next pod he wound up in also housed arrestees accused of high-level crimes, including several who were gang members.
After these inmates threatened Hunter, he repeatedly made written requests for a transfer, but to no avail. Then, on July 18, the suit says his cellmates accused him of "snitching and insulting them behind their backs." Their alleged response began when one person put Hunter into a chokehold while another punched him in the face, then grabbed his legs and tied them together with string. After that, he was picked up and carried to a bed, where he was again slugged in the face, resulting in a broken nose.
Next, he was untied, ordered to strip and told to enter the cell's shower. He was afraid he was going to be raped, but instead, he was punched a few more times before an inmate returned with a container of scalding water and poured its contents on his waist, thighs and genitals.
At that point, Hunter passed out, only to awaken some time later screaming in agony, the suit says. But Deputy Gayle Rumer, on duty in the unit, is alleged to have been "deliberately indifferent to Mr. Hunter's safety, by failing to protect him from other inmates and by failing to respond to the assault and burning in a timely manner."
Continue to read more about the assault, as well as to see additional photos, the lawsuit and more. Despite the attack, Hunter declined to press charges against the inmates, fearing that if he did so, his life would be in danger. Instead, he asked again that he be housed with prisoners jailed for lower-level offenses like his own. But on July 31, he filed a grievance in which he claimed, "I have been made an official enemy of the Denver Sheriff Department" and accused one deputy in particular, Edward Keller, of shaking him down.
The next day, Deputy Keller allegedly responded to a complaint from Hunter by asking, "What would you like me to do? Kiss your ass?" After another verbal exchange or two, the suit claims the deputy grabbed Hunter by the back of his neck, twisted his arm behind his back, forced him into his cell, slammed him down onto the bunk and strangled him. Another deputy intervened -- but among other things, Hunter was reportedly tased in the process.
After his release, Hunter tried to reopen the burning case, but little appears to have happened over the next several months, leading to the lawsuit, which asks for punitive damages and more to be paid by Denver and assorted deputies.
At the time of the lawsuit's filing, director and undersheriff Gary Wilson released the following statement:
We are aware of the incident involving Jamal Hunter which occurred at the Downtown Detention Center. Mr. Hunter alleged that he was assaulted by two inmates who were housed in his unit. Mr. Hunter refused to press criminal charges against the inmates he claimed assaulted him and other potential witnesses have not cooperated with our investigation. The case is still under investigation for procedural violations against the Deputy who was responsible for supervision of the unit.
In the end, 7News reports, deputies Rumer and Keller both received suspensions for their actions in the Hunter case: the former for forty days, the latter for thirty. However, the details of the investigation remained hidden until yesterday, when U.S. District Judge John Kane ordered a number of documents to be unsealed. And the information they contain is shocking. Continue to read more about the assault, as well as to see additional photos, the lawsuit and more. An Internal Affairs report summarizing the investigation into Deputy Rumer includes comments from a slew of inmates about what went on in various pods at the jail. The entire document is below, but here's a sampling of the allegations:
• "Rumer was often drunk at work when he was in 3A." • "Rumer would pop doors to allow the fights to happen in closets." • "In 3A there was a lot of 'hooch' being made and consumed and inmates would also smoke weed and the deputies didn't care." • "Deputies were not in charge, but the gangs were in charge of the jail." • "In 3A tier, porters had a lot of power and controlled the extra food, adn they stole others' clothes when they did laundry. States that 'deputies like Rumer' would let this happen." • "Talks about an older inmate with mental health issues that was beaten and the 'deputy' mocked him and told him it didn't happen." • "Claims a lot of porn around, both being sold and given out and he smelled weed in his cell also." • "Claims Rumer would ignore fights and gang activit. Claims inmates would wait until Rumer was working to fight." • "Claims that Rumer was always drinking alcohol from a silver thermos.... States 3A was the 'terror dome.'"
Some of the most damning accusations against Rumer were shared by inmate Amos Page. Below, we've included two documents related to his statements, including the complete audio transcript. But here are some highlights from the Internal Affairs document:
• "Claims he caught Rumer with vodka in a thermos and he empited it into his coffee cup when Rumer was not looking. He claimed Rumer gave him cigarettes and a lighter to keep him quiet and wanted to be friends with him. He states Rumer would drink around him." • "Claims doing business with Rumer, who would bring in porno magazines and he would sell each page for $3. He would buy the magazines for $10 using pop tokens and he would get paid in pop tokens." • "Claims Rumer would let him run the pod and give out violations such as '50 punches to the chin' or 'straight up two minutes,' meaning two minutes with four homies. This would happen in the cleaning closet or the shower."
As for Keller, he's said to have attacked Hunter after the latter called him a racist.
Look below to see a 7News piece about the latest developments. That's followed by four documents: the original lawsuit, an affidavit and transcript from inmate Page's comments about Deputy Rumer and the Internal Affairs report.
Continue for four documents related to the Jamal Hunter case, a number of which have just been unsealed.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our News archive circa September 2012: "Jamal Hunter sues city after fellow inmates scald his genitals."
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