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Published: Tuesday, 4/14/2009

Lucas County Sheriff James Telb, 3 others indicted in death of inmate

BLADE STAFF

Longtime Lucas County Sheriff James Telb and a top commander and two former deputies were indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges related to the 2004 death of an inmate at the jail.

Sheriff James Telb and employee Robert McBroom, who was an investigator with internal affairs, Jay Schmeltz, a former deputy sheriff, and John Gray, a former chief deputy were each charged in the 12 count indictment. Charges range from making false statements to aiding and abetting.

Sheriff Telb, 70, in his seventh term and 25th year in office, was charged with two counts, one of making a false statement and one of misprision of a felony. The indictment alleges that having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, [the sheriff] concealed and did not as soon as possible make that crime known to a judge or other federal official.

I didn t do anything wrong and I m not going to walk away, Sheriff Telb said at a news conference that is still ongoing. Mr. Telb said he was shocked at the charges and said: We re going to be vindicated in this.... This is serious stuff. I m not backing away from it.

Inmate Carlton Benton died while in custody at the county jail in 2004. According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed in December by his family, sheriff s department employees were accused of handcuffing the inmate to his bed and striking him leaving visible wounds on [Mr. Benton s] body (which the autopsy report notes, but then fails to relate to [his] death).

The lawsuit further states that an eye-witness has since come forward to say that Mr. Benton died due to being struck multiple times, without the ability to defend himself, by Lucas County Sheriff s Office employees.

In 2008, the sheriff s office conducted its own criminal investigation of the matter.

A detective interviewed the people who were present during the initial incident involving Mr. Benton in 2004.

The investigation, which began in March, was launched after a sheriff s office employee made a statement about the incident during a disciplinary hearing. The employee claimed she was not directly involved in the incident, but did witness some of what happened.

The investigation resulted in no criminal charges.

Mr. Benton, 24, was charged with two counts of aggravated murder for the death of Anthony. Griffin, 42, and another aggravated murder count for the killing of Tammy Griffin, 40. All three counts included death-penalty specifications.

Police said Mr. Benton left the Griffin residence after the murders, changed clothes, and returned later the next day, when he activated Mr. Griffin s medical alert transmitter and called police to tell them the bodies were in the house.

Police said Mr. Benton confessed to the crimes.



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