An inmate’s violent assault of his cellmate will probably cost Metro $530,000 to settle a case that raised questions about the safety of Nashville’s jails and steered changes inside the Davidson County Sherriff’s Office.
Curtis Dressman, a 23-year-old college student visiting Nashville for a concert, arrived at the Davidson County’s criminal justice center on the night of April 24, 2010, after being arrested on public intoxication charges.
There, he found himself in a soundproof holding cell next to Jamie Lopez, 27, arrested for the same reason. Lopez had already resisted arrest, kicked the back window out of a patrol car and threatened police offers.
Lopez soon directed his rage at Dressman. And eight minutes after Dressman entered the holding cell, a correctional officer found him beaten to the floor with Lopez standing next to him.
Dressman’s injuries required a 10-day stay at a Nashville hospital, multiple plastic surgeries and dental procedures. He suffered a traumatic brain injury that altered his cognitive function for a period of time, and the disfigurement of his face, according to a legal analysis compiled by Metro Council attorney Jon Cooper.
Though there was a correctional officer near the incident, the holding cell’s lone window was blacked out to provide privacy to inmates.
It took another detainee to finally alert the correctional officer. Surveillance video captured images of Lopez repeatedly punching downward into Dressman.
Dressman sued Metro and Sheriff’s Office Lt. William Gise, who had taken custody of Lopez after his original outburst.
The $530,000 dollar-figure is one of the largest settlements to go before the council in recent years, though it is less than what Metro might have to pay if it were to go to court, Cooper said. The council will vote on the settlement at its July 2 meeting.
The total potential cost includes a combination of the plaintiffs’ attorney fees, already-accrued and future medical payments as well as Gise’s legal representation.
The sheriff’s office took no disciplinary action against any of its officers. But after the assault, the office had adopted a policy whereby only one person is placed in a holding cell at one time. In addition, doors of holding cells now have small holes to make them less soundproof.
“We take inmate on inmate assaults seriously and after a thorough review, operational changes were made to decrease the likelihood of another similar incident happening,” Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said in a prepared statement.
According to the sheriff’s office, assaults like this one are “exceptionally rare.”
Wonder if he sued the guy that attacked him...