Ohio Army veteran diagnosed with schizophrenia receives $239K settlement after he was beaten by jail officer
cleveland.com March 6, 2023
CLEVELAND (Tribune News Service) — Cuyahoga County agreed to pay $239,000 to a U.S. Army veteran diagnosed with schizophrenia who needed facial reconstruction surgery after a pummeling by a jail officer, according to probate court records.
The county settled the lawsuit with Joshua Castleberry more than four years after a corrections officer beat Castleberry, strapped him to a restraint chair and failed to give him medical attention for four hours while he bled profusely in an isolated Cuyahoga County Jail cell.
The settlement must be approved by a Cuyahoga County Probate judge and by Cuyahoga County Council. Cuyahoga County spokesman Tyler Sinclair declined comment because the settlement had not yet been approved.
Messages were left with Castleberry’s attorneys, Sara Gedeon and David Malik.
Castleberry’s lawsuit, filed in 2020, is one of more than 30 against the county over a volatile period at the jail starting in 2018, when county officials pushed to house cities’ inmates to generate revenue. County officials cut basic costs for inmate care while charging cities a per diem rate of $99 per day for each inmate.
The jail, already understaffed, became packed with inmates. Lawsuits were filed over inmate suicides, jail beatings by guards and officials’ failure to properly care for inmates’ physical and mental health, among other reasons.
Castleberry, 27, served in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and in the last two years, his condition has worsened, according to probate court records. His mother, Tonya Castleberry, was granted guardianship of her son.
Castleberry lost three teeth during the Feb. 18, 2018, beating at the jail, including one tooth that lodged in his nasal cavity.
The beating by corrections officer John Wilson was one of several cases in an Ohio Attorney General’s Office probe of the jail and one of two that went to trial. Wilson and Cpl. Jason Jozwiak were charged in the case; Jozwiak was accused of failing to get medical help for Castleberry following the beating.
Jozwiak still works as a corporal at the jail. Wilson left the county in February 2022.
No video of the incident exists in part because Wilson worked with the jail’s Special Response Team, also known as the Men in Black because of their paramilitary gear. Those officers were not required to wear body cameras.
The unit was harshly criticized in a U.S. Marshals Service investigation and its members are defendants in several of the lawsuits filed against the county.
Castleberry testified at trial that he asked Wilson for a new sandwich because the jail’s bread was stale. Wilson refused, went into Castleberry’s cell and ordered Castleberry against the wall.
Wilson shot pepper-foam in Castleberry’s face, put him in handcuffs and slammed his head on the concrete floor several times, he said.
Three of Castleberry’s teeth were knocked out, including one that lodged in his nasal cavity and required surgery.
Another officer’s body camera video showed Castleberry gushing blood from his mouth. Officers strapped him to a restraint chair and left him bloodied and alone in a room by himself for about four hours before he was taken to the hospital.
Wilson testified that Castleberry refused his orders during a search of the cell and that he clenched his fist before Wilson shot pepper-foam in Castleberry’s face. Wilson testified that Castleberry punched him in the head, which gave the officer a concussion.
The jury acquitted Jozwiak of all charges. It found Wilson not guilty of an abduction charge but deadlocked on charges of felonious assault and unlawful restraint. The jury voted 11-1 to acquit Wilson of felonious assault, the most serious charge, along racial lines.
Wilson later pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor count of assault, which allowed him to keep his job. He was sentenced to probation, 250 hours of community service and to pay a $500 fine. County officials later suspended him for 15 days without pay.
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