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Cuyahoga County Sued By Another Inmate, Alleges Death Threat

 With another lawsuit filed this week, 11 current or former Cuyahoga County employees have been indicted in cases alleging misconduct at the county jail. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland, Ohio

Cuyahoga County is facing yet another lawsuit because of the county jail with an inmate alleging he was the victim of retaliation for speaking with U.S. Marshals, including threats against his life.

Ashlie Case Sletvold of the Chandra Law Firm is representing Corrionne Lawrence in a lawsuit alleging several instances of abuse last fall.

Lawrence was targeted for speaking Spanish when he was booked into the jail, Sletvold said.

"He was placed into a restraint chair as a punitive measure," Sletvold said. "That's something that violates county policy but it's something that's done quite regularly; use of the restraint chair as well as chemical agents, et cetera, as a punitive measure."

Corrections officers knew another inmate, Stacey Norris, had been charged with killing Lawrence's cousin, but put them in the same area anyway, Sletvold said.

"From the moment that Mr. Lawrence walked into the pod, Mr. Norris is hollering out of his cell that he better be ready, he's threatening violence," Sletvold said. "Corrections officers do nothing in response to this."

The threats from Norris eventually led to an attack after which both inmates needed medical attention, Sletvold said.

"He stood right over the shoulder of a corrections officer as she unlocked Mr. Lawrence's cell door and he went right in and attacked him," Sletvold said. "The corrections officer did nothing in response besides calling others to try and assist, so for several minutes Mr. Norris was left alone in Mr. Lawrence's cell to attack him."

After corrections officers learned Lawrence passed a note to U.S. Marshals investigating conditions at the jail, he was targeted again, according to the lawsuit.

"He was requesting a shower and an SRT [Special Response Team] officer stuck his head in his cell, threatened to mace him and then said he would hang him and make it look like a suicide," Sletvold said.

The lawsuit was filed against six corrections officers.

"There are two John Doe defendants in this matter whose names we do not know," Sletvold said. "They may be among those who have been indicted. I couldn't say regarding that, but the four individually named corrections officers who were sued in their personal capacity, as far as I know, they're still working."

The officers named in the lawsuit are Christopher Little, Brandon Smith, Barry Hickerson and Beverly Witt.

The county did not respond to questions about surveillance cameras at the jail or the employment status of the accused corrections officers.

Lawrence is serving the remainder of his sentence at the Mansfield jail, according to his lawyers.

In February, Cuyahoga County prosecutors handed off a corruption probe to state attorneys because of the multiple lawsuits against county officials related to alleged misdeeds at the jail.

The state attorney general says 11 current or former Cuyahoga County employees have been indicted.

Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.