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Published: Friday, 1/9/2009

Civil lawsuit over '04 death at jail moved to U.S. court

A civil lawsuit filed by family members of a man who died in 2004 while in custody at the Lucas County jail was removed from the county's common pleas court and filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo.

The wrongful-death lawsuit was filed by the family of Carlton Benton against Lucas County, claiming that sheriff's employees caused his death when they "repeatedly physically assaulted him in 2004." Federal authorities also are investigating the death for possible criminal charges as well.

In early 2004, the North Toledo man was being held in the Lucas County jail on two counts of aggravated murder when he died. Mr. Benton, 24, faced the death penalty if convicted.

In their lawsuit filed Dec. 9 in Common Pleas Court, Mr. Benton's family members accused sheriff's department employees of handcuffing the inmate to his bed and striking him. It further states that an "eyewitness" has come forward to say that Mr. Benton died "due to being struck multiple times, without the ability to defend himself."

The prosecutor's office, who is acting on behalf of the county, filed a notice of removal with the federal court Monday, saying that the case belonged there instead of in common pleas court. The case, which has no court dates set, was assigned to Judge Jack Zouhary.

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