Published: Thursday, December 14, 2006
$65,000 settlement ends inmate lawsuit
Eight deputies were convicted of criminal charges in the civil rights inmate abuse case.
YOUNGSTOWN Settling a lawsuit by an inmate who was twice beaten by Mahoning County deputy sheriffs in the county jail is cheaper than defending the county and the eight former deputies he sued, an assistant county prosecutor said.
On the same day a judge freed Tawhon Easterly from state prison, where he had served time for his role in a homicide, Easterly signed a $65,000 agreement settling the civil lawsuits he had filed against the county and its employees in the two beatings.
"It was a good settlement in light of the costs of defense," said Gina DeGenova Bricker, assistant county prosecutor. "Under the law, we are required to provide a defense to any person who is sued [over events that transpired] while an employee of the county," she explained.
Under the settlement terms, "He can never refile any of these suits again. It's over," Bricker said Wednesday.
Prosecutor Paul Gains publicly disclosed the settlement Wednesday during a prosecutor's office budget hearing before the county commissioners.
Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court released Easterly from the Belmont Correctional Institution, where he was 11 months away from completing a nine-year sentence on involuntary manslaughter and felonious assault charges with firearms specifications.
Judge Sweeney freed Easterly, putting him on five years of community control by the Adult Parole Authority, after his lawyer, J. Gerald Ingram, requested his release. Ingram said Easterly had obtained his high school equivalency diploma in prison and intended to enroll at Youngstown State University after his release.
If he violates the terms of his community control, the judge said she'd sent him back to prison for the remaining 11 months, followed by five years of post-release control.
After pleading guilty to the charges, Easterly was sentenced to prison in March 2002 by former Judge Robert Lisotto of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, who gave him credit for 1,238 days he had already served in county jail.
The charges against Easterly stemmed from the October 1998 slaying of Clinton Longmire III, 18, of Elm Street, who was shot in his car on Martin Luther King Boulevard. The felonious assault charges stemmed from the wounding of three other men in the car. The charges were reduced from murder and attempted murder in exchange for Easterly's guilty plea.
Easterly, 27, agreed to settle state and federal civil lawsuits against the county commissioners and sheriff's department, Sheriff Randall Wellington and eight former deputies in beatings Easterly received from several deputies Dec. 28, 2001, while he was a pretrial detainee.
The settlement, signed Nov. 28 by Easterly and Bricker, said a $65,000 check, jointly payable to Easterly and Ingram, would be sent to Ingram. The County Risk Sharing Association, a multicounty insurance consortium, issued the check, and the county will reimburse CORSA for its $25,000 deductible, Bricker said.
Identified in suit
The former deputies listed as defendants in the suits are Michael J. Budd, a former major; William E. DeLuca, a former sergeant; Ronald Denson, a former corporal, all now in federal prisons; Ryan Strange of Montgomery, Ala., Montgomery Community Corrections; Mark Dixon of Columbiana County Jail; John Rivera and Raymond Hull, both of Youngstown; and Ronald Kaschak of Austintown.
All were convicted of criminal charges. Kaschak was given probation, but all the others were sentenced to serve various terms of incarceration. Dixon is awaiting a Jan. 8 trial before Judge John M. Durkin of Mahoning County Common Plea Court on an unrelated sexual battery charge that alleges he had a female inmate engage in sexual activity with him in Mahoning County Jail in November 2002.
Easterly filed the state lawsuit, which sought more than $900,000 in compensation, in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court, while he was an inmate at the Trumbull Correctional Institution. In that complaint, Easterly alleged that Hull, Dixon and Strange beat him after he was identified as having hit a female deputy.
Budd later passed orders through DeLuca and Denson that Easterly was to be beaten a second time and "put in the hospital" as punishment for hitting the female deputy, the suit said, adding that Hull, Dixon, Rivera and Kaschak then beat him.