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Published: Friday, 1/28/2011

Retired deputies to serve time in prison for role in death of jail inmate

Two former Lucas County sheriff's employees found guilty by a federal jury for crimes associated with the 2004 death of an inmate were each sentenced Friday to time in prison.

Retired Sgt. John Gray was sentenced to serve three years in prison and Jay Schmeltz, a retired deputy, was sentenced to one year and one day. Both would be eligible for good conduct time credit.

U.S. District Court Judge David Katz allowed the men to go home with their families and ordered that they self report. Authorities said that it usually takes about 30 days for the Bureau of Prisons to designate a facility and give the defendants a day to turn themselves in.

Both men were convicted in early December after a month-long jury trial.

Gray, 72, was convicted of one count of violating civil rights for leaving the inmate 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 lying to the FBI and applying a sleeper hold that rendered a shackled Carlton Benton unconscious.

Schmeltz 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 Mr. Benton while escorting him through the jail's booking area.

Two other defendants, Sheriff James Telb and Internal Affairs Capt. Robert McBroom, were acquitted of the charges they faced.

The sheriff sat in the crowded federal courtroom during the lengthy sentencing. He left quickly and without comment after the judge issued the prison terms.

Neither Gray nor Schmeltz spoke prior to being sentenced. Their attorneys told Judge Katz that their silence did not indicate a lack of emotion but instead they were acting on the advice of their civil counsel.

The family of Mr. Benton has sued the county and the defendants individually in a wrongful death suit filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo. Also named in the complaint are Sheriff Telb and Captain McBroom.

Mr. Benton, 25, who was taken into custody on aggravated murder charges, died June 1, 2004, at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, two days after he was taken from the jail unconscious and unresponsive. He had just returned from the hospital after he was taken there May 28, 2004, after suffering from seizures, according to trial testimony.

At the time, his death was ruled natural. In March, the Lucas County coroner's office revised the ruling, saying that Mr. Benton's death was a homicide as a result of asphyxia following a sleeper hold.

Gray, Schmeltz, and their attorneys declined comment as they left the federal courthouse.



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