FLOYD COUNTY, Ind. (WHAS11)-- After a WHAS11 story aired showing Tabitha Gentry in the Floyd County Jail having her clothes ripped off by officers, a local attorney said her phone started ringing with other alleged victims looking to come forward.
Attorney Laura Landenwich is now representing four clients that have filed a civil lawsuit against the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department alleging mistreatment in the jail.
“As people began to come forward, we realized the full scope of these abuses which extend beyond simply holding people naked, which is humiliating enough as it is,” Landenwich said. “Every single one of my clients was forced to urinate in a drain. These are not prisoners of war in a war zone. These are American citizens on American soil. This is just disgusting.”
The suit claims that four alleged victims, Gentry, Vincent Minton, Michael Herron and Adam Walker, had their civil liberties violated during their time in the jail. All three were brought in on alleged misdemeanors involving alcohol, such as public intoxication or disorderly conduct.
Landenwich said yes, her clients need to be held accountable if they are found guilty for those misdemeanors, but what she claims happened to them while they were in the jail is “unconstitutional.” She said that yes, there are reasons for strip searches when an officer worries an inmate is bringing in contraband such as drugs or weapons. Landenwich defends, however, that in these cases there was no search involved: only stripping.
“What is happening in two of the scenarios that we plead in the complaint, you have people put into this cell with their clothes on first, so we know there was no strip search necessary because they've been there a while already,” Landenwich explained. “It's when they start banging on the door and asking for things like a phone call or a lawyer that they get stripped, and that clearly demonstrates that this is punitive, it is torture, it is designed to humiliate. It's designed to subdue people who are not a threat. Maybe annoying, that's the worse you can say; but, when they are locked in a cell by themselves. This is flat out prisoner abuse.”
One of the alleged victims had a specific medical problem that he claims was ignored. Walker is a war veteran who suffered some very serious combat injuries, one of which is to the brain that can cause him to seize.
“For four days he sat in there without seeing a judge or using a phone by the way and they refused to provide him that medication,” Landenwich said. “Under our system they are innocent until either they plead guilty or a jury finds them guilty. So this holding someone for four days? It is just not acceptable!”
Landenwich said she believes these four clients will not in the end be the only ones listed on the lawsuit.
“We will very likely be amending to add additional people as needed to make sure that we fully represent the scope of what's happened here,” she said. “I've already requested more video. I've already advised [the Sheriff’s Department] that they need to preserve all that evidence, that it will be used. We will undertake an investigation to what the policies really were, how many people this happened to, how often it was happening and whether or not there were any other abuses.”
WHAS11 reached out to the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department on Friday, but calls and messages were not returned. Earlier this week, the Floyd County Sheriff did release a statement saying no policies were violated and his staff didn’t break any rules.