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Sheriff Refuses Request For Info 

Meanwhile, another alleged beating comes to light

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office has refused to disclose information relating to the alleged beatings of inmates in the county jail system. Creative Loafing requested that the Sheriff turn over copies of any beating or excessive force complaints inmates had filed against detention officers who work at the county's jails, as well as the number of complaints that had been filed over the last years and any disciplinary outcome of these complaints. A spokesperson for the sheriff cited North Carolina personnel privacy law in denying the request for information about inmate complaint. The spokesperson also refused to disclose the number of complaints that had been filed because it would take too much effort on the part of the sheriff's office to compile that information. CL has sought legal advice in the matter and is pursuing the information.

The skirmish over information between CL and the sheriff's office came on the heels of a cover story in CL last week that detailed the cases of six inmates who claimed they'd been severely beaten by detention officers at the jail (see "Beaten Senseless In Jail Central" by yours truly). In one of the cases CL wrote about, a man who was denied medical treatment for diabetes while at Mecklenburg County Jail Central sued because lack of treatment had caused him to loose his eyesight. In court papers related to the cases, an attorney for Sheriff Jim Pendergraph argued that the sheriff bears no responsibility for the actions of his deputies. Over half of the detention officers named in the cases remain employed by the sheriff's office.

After last week's article had been published, CL learned of another beating case. Former inmate Stacy Cunningham is blind in his left eye due to an alleged beating by a sheriff's deputy at Jail Central while Cunningham was handcuffed on the floor and unable to defend himself. In Cunningham's civil case, which is scheduled to go to trial next month, his attorney claims that Cunningham's blindness resulted from being repeatedly kicked in the head and face by detention officer James Riley Sr. A judge has barred the public disclosure of a videotape of the incident, which will be shown to the jury in the case when it goes to trial.

Cunningham and a legal associate of his attorney, Pamela Hunter, say they have been offered a five-figure monetary settlement by the legal team representing the sheriff and Riley, but they've turned it down in favor of a jury trial in which compensation to Cunningham for his injury might be more substantial.

Two weeks ago, a spokesperson for the sheriff denied that county jail inmates have been beaten by detention officers.

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