Bald files suit as two jailers return to work
Two jailers who were accused of Class D felony assisting a criminal last year, then had their cases dismissed in March, returned to work this past weekend.
Harrison County Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye said that after extensive review of the case and conducting his own lengthy investigation, he saw no reason why Ross Timberlake and Sheila Barber should have been charged with any crime involving the incarceration of Tevin Bald. As such, he allowed them to return to work at the Harrison County Jail.
Barber was back on the job Saturday night, and Timberlake returned Monday night.
‘I know there’s going to be a lot of backlash over this, but I’ll sleep just fine at night because I know I’m doing the right thing,’ Seelye said. ‘I’ve spent an extensive amount of time looking into the case and there’s nothing that indicates to me they should have been charged in the first place. Their only crime was not including information in a written report.’
In March, Harrison County Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk sought to have the charges dismissed. Schalk said that even if the defendants did what they were charged with ‘ the omission of an alleged fact from their incident reports about what happened ‘ that does not constitute a crime but rather a personnel matter to be considered at the administrative level.
‘This was really an act of omission,’ Schalk said when he filed the motion. ‘After the event occurred, (Barber) left out the fact (in her report) that the pepper spray was sprayed outside of the hood. By my accounts, the spray was outside of the spit mask. There’s a big difference between on and in (the hood).’
The prosecutor said Timberlake’s incident report was factually similar to Barber’s in that neither mentioned the use of pepper spray. In statements to the Indiana State Police, however, both Timberlake and Barber told investigators that pepper spray was used, and that Adams had been the one to spray the spit mask.
‘We didn’t see anything that warranted criminal prosecution,’ Schalk said. ‘They had zero involvement in the application of the pepper spray.’
The two returned to work just days after they were named in a federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New Albany on behalf of Bald, the 19-year-old African American who claimed he was abused at the Harrison County Jail on May 22 of last year.
The suit, filed by John L. Smith, Bald’s attorney, also names former Harrison County Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick, who was in office at the time of the alleged incident, the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department, Harrison County government and Zachariah Nathan Adams, who was the second-shift supervisor in charge at the jail on the date of the alleged incident.
Adams is charged with Class C felony battery, Class D felony criminal recklessness and Class A misdemeanor battery due to his alleged involvement in the incident.
Bald, who was said to have become angry and tipped a cleaning bucket because he wasn’t given clean water to clean his cell, was allegedly placed in a padded cell where he was made to strip naked, placed in a restraint chair and had a spit mask and hood placed over his face.
In a tort claim filed last fall, the claim alleged that Adams and Timberlake ‘maliciously sprayed the inside of the spit mask with mace and/or pepper spray which caused extreme physical and emotional trauma and pain and suffering to Tevin Bald.’
According to statements to ISP investigators, pepper spray was released into the area where Bald was being kept, and Bald was forced to remain in the mace-laden spit mask for more than an hour without any medical treatment.
The following morning, Bald was placed in a medical cell and was on a suicide watch for 72 hours. Bald allegedly requested to take a shower to remove the pepper spray, but he said he was refused. Bald did not see a doctor until May 25, and, at that time, he was allegedly spitting up blood and a black substance from the pepper spray. The doctor prescribed medication to help Bald; however, the suit says Bald was never given access to it.
In the suit filed last Wednesday, Smith said prepping a spit mask was a common, unofficial custom and policy at the jail, as was spraying pepper spray in a padded cell area.
Bald is suing on the following grounds: violation of 14th Amendment Rights, assault and battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. He is seeking general damages, medical, incidental, hospital, psychological care and other expenses, an award of pre- and post-judgment interest, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.