(WTOL) - Lucas County Sheriff, James Telb, has been indicted by a Federal Grand Jury. He has been charged with making false statements to FBI agents investigating the beating death of a man at a county jail.
Federal prosecutors say Telb helped cover up the role that his deputies played in the 2004 death of Carleton Benton. A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted Telb and three others.
The government says a sheriff's deputy assaulted and strangled Benton in a cell, then left him lying unconscious without seeking medical help. The indictment says Benton was then struck by another deputy.
Late Tuesday, he responded to allegations that he helped cover up a case involving the death of an inmate.
"I have never interfered in the course of any investigation, including this one. The circumstances of this inmate's death were fully checked and a report made concerning it. I am confident that at the end of this case, no one will be found to have been criminally responsible in any regard. I will continue to serve in the post to which the people of Lucas County have elected me. For more than 25 years, I have protected the rights of the people of Lucas County, including those in custody, and I will continue to do just that," says Lucas County Sheriff James Telb.
According the indictment, former Deputy Sheriff John Gray assaulted and strangled an inmate in a cell at the jail.
He allegedly failed to get medical help for the inmate, which, according to the indictment, resulted in detainee Carlton Benton's death.
Telb and a lieutenant are accused of concealing their knowledge of the case from federal authorities.
If convicted, Telb faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison if convicted.
Toledo Police arrested 25-year-old Carlton Benton in 2004 for a brutal double murder. Five months into custody at the Lucas County jail, a jail employee said it was Benton who was murdered and by her own co-workers.
Criminal notes News 11 obtained from the sheriff's office, in which the employee tells investigators, Benton was butt naked head to toe handcuffed, hog tied like this. The deputies picked him up and they were like slamming him into the wall and slamming him into the bars and slamming him in the elevator.
Once in his cell, she says deputies stomped him, kicked him, punched him, smothered him and choked him. He was left unresponsive and died later at the hospital.
The day following the alleged attack, that employee told investigators she received a message from those involved and they said, you keep your mouth shut if you know what's good for you. I said tell them, I don't go for threats.
An internal investigation at the time indicated the officers involved were told to write up the incident, but only discuss Benton's aggression during a hospital visit before the alleged confrontation in his cell.
The coroner told investigators if she knew of that confrontation, Benton's death would likely have been ruled undetermined instead of complications to a seizure that's now on record.
The employee said she came forward because of threats of losing her job. She said everybody's just mad because a lot of people are going to get in trouble for this.
Family of dead inmate sues Lucas County
A Toledo family has filed suit against Lucas County claiming county employees are to blame for their loved one's death. It all happened in 2004, but the lawsuit was filed this week.
It was a double murder in 2004 that led Toledo police to 25-year-old Carlton Benton.
At the time, detectives say Benton confessed to a double murder. First, beating Tammy Griffin to death. Then stabbing his wheelchair-bound cousin, Anthony Griffin, to death.
Before the trial, family relative Linda Smith said, "We have suffered a tremendous loss, and it's even more devastating for the mother of the defendant. She's lost her husband, and now she's losing her son."
But before a jury could hear the case, Benton himself died while in the custody of the Lucas County jail. The coroner declared it a natural death stating complications to a seizure.
In March of this year, a Lucas County jail employee came forward telling coworkers and Benton's family what she saw the day before he died.
Media release from the Department of Justice:
Three Current and One Former Lucas County, Ohio, Sheriff Officials Indicted on Civil Rights Charges
WASHINGTON - Four individuals have been indicted on charges of federal civil rights violations relating to the in-custody death of a detainee at the Lucas County Jail in Ohio and an alleged subsequent four-year cover-up of the role that jail personnel played in the death.
The indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Toledo, Ohio, was returned today and announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King of the Civil Rights Division.
The indictment alleges that on May 30, 2004, former Deputy Sheriff John E. Gray assaulted and strangled a detainee in a cell at the Lucas County Jail and then left the detainee lying unconscious without seeking medical help for him, actions which resulted in the detainee's death. The indictment also alleges that, shortly prior to the incident that resulted in the detainee's death, Deputy Sheriff Jay M. Schmeltz struck and assaulted the same detainee, causing bodily injury. Thereafter, according to the charges, Deputies Gray and Schmeltz wrote false reports concealing the incidents and made false statements to the FBI. Finally, the indictment alleges that Lt. Robert McBroom of the jail's Internal Affairs Department and Sheriff James Telb concealed their knowledge of Deputy Gray's felonies from federal authorities and that McBroom and Telb made false statements to the FBI during the course of its investigation of the detainee's death.
"Police officers are given tremendous authority and responsibility so that they can protect and serve the public trust. Those who abuse that authority face serious consequences," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. "The Civil Rights Division is committed to prosecuting all cases of official misconduct and to bringing these individuals to justice."
If convicted, Gray will face a maximum sentence of life in prison, Schmeltz will face a maximum sentence of ten years, and McBroom and Telb will each face a maximum sentence of three years.
This case is being investigated by the FBI's Cleveland Division. The case is being prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Kristy Parker and Trial Attorney Ryan McKinstry of the Civil Rights Division's Criminal Section.