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Published: Friday, 1/24/2014

Ex-sheriff’s deputy dropped from suit

Magistrate rules in 2004 death

Telb Telb

Retired Lucas County sheriff’s Capt. Robert McBroom has been dismissed Thursday from a civil lawsuit filed by the family of a jail inmate who died in custody, and some of the claims against former Sheriff James Telb were dropped.

McBroom McBroom

U.S. District Court Magistrate Vernelis Armstrong dismissed all claims against Mr. McBroom, who, along with the former sheriff, was acquitted in 2010 on federal criminal charges alleging they conspired to cover up the 2004 death of Carlton Benton and lied to federal officials about the incident four years later.

“We’re very pleased with the judge’s decision,” said Joan Szuberla, attorney for Mr. McBroom. “Obviously, it’s been a long, long time for everybody.”

“From a defense side, it’s been a successful day,” said attorney Dennis Lyle, who represents Mr. Telb. “We’ve eliminated a number of claims. Mr. McBroom is completely out of the case; now we have to narrow it down to ... the core issues.”

In their federal lawsuit, Mr. Benton’s family accused Lucas County, the sheriff’s office, Mr. Telb, and former sheriff’s employees John Gray and Jay Schmeltz of wrongful death, conspiracy to violate Mr. Benton’s constitutional rights, negligence and recklessness, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other claims.

Magistrate Armstrong dismissed several conspiracy claims made against Mr. Telb, writing, “Plaintiffs offer no specific factual statements to support that a single plan existed or that defendants, including Defendant Telb, had a single plan when they allegedly falsified documents and made allegedly false statements.”

Mr. Telb, who was sheriff from 1985 to 2012, still faces claims of failure to sufficiently train and supervise employees against the use of excessive force and liability for wrongful death, assault and battery, excessive force, and failure to provide medical treatment.

A number of claims also remain against Gray and Schmeltz, who each were convicted on criminal charges during the monthlong trial in federal court.

Gray, a retired sergeant, was found guilty of one count of violating civil rights for leaving Mr. Benton in a cell without seeking medical attention and of two counts of writing false reports of the incident.

He was acquitted of one count each of charges that claimed he lied to the FBI and applied a sleeper hold that rendered a shackled Mr. Benton unconscious.

Schmeltz, a retired deputy, was found guilty of writing a false report but was acquitted of a second count of writing a false report and of violating civil rights for pushing the shackled inmate while escorting him through the jail's booking area.

Mr. Benton was in custody on aggravated murder charges when he was taken to the hospital after being found unconscious and unresponsive at the jail. He died two days later on June 1, 2004. His death initially was ruled natural as a result of a seizure disorder.

In the civil suit, Magistrate Armstrong ruled that claims of excessive force, failure to provide medical care, assault and battery, wrongful death, and conspiracy shall stand against Gray, although she dismissed the remaining claims against him.

As for Schmeltz, Magistrate Armstrong allowed claims of excessive force, failure to provide medical treatment, and assault and battery to stand but dismissed the other claims, which included civil conspiracy and wrongful death.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.

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