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Cuyahoga County Corrections Officers Acquitted On 3 Of 5 Charges

Updated: 4:40 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 25

Two Cuyahoga County corrections officers were found not guilty on three out of five charges in the alleged beating of an inmate at the county jail.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on two of the charges against John Wilson: felonious assault and interfering with civil rights.

Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Sherrie Miday declared a mistrial on those counts Wednesday. According to spokesman Steve Irwin, the state attorney general's office plans to seek a new trial on the felonious assault and interfering with civil rights charges against Wilson.

Wilson was found not guilty of unlawful restraint in a Feb. 5, 2018, incident in which inmate Joshua Castleberry said he was beaten so severely he lost two teeth and was left with a third lodged in his sinus cavity.

Jason Jozwiak was found not guilty of one count each of falsification and interfering with civil rights. He was accused of denying Castleberry medical attention for hours after the incident.

The trial hinged largely on eyewitness testimony, as no video footage of the incident exists, in spite of surveillance cameras installed in the jail and officers being issued body cameras. Defense attorneys argued Castleberry was combative and his injuries did not match up with his account of the incident. 

“It’s a good start,” said Adam Chaloupka, staff attorney for the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, who represented Wilson. “These are hard cases and the jury has a hard job. They saw the facts and they had a really hard time, and that’s just how it’s going to be in all these cases.”

Any case involving officers and use of force is very case-specific, Chaloupka said, noting that this case is the first of several involving alleged violence against inmates at the troubled jail.

Reports of prisoner mistreatment and poor sanitary conditions surfaced during a probe of the jail by the U.S. Marshals Service last year, which was requested by Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. That report detailed “inhumane” conditions, ranging from limited access to medical care to food being withheld as punishment, and more.

Since the release of the report, prosecutors have charged the former jail director, former warden and several corrections officers with a laundry list of felonies and misdemeanors

Earlier this month, an inmate filed a lawsuit against six corrections officers alleging he was the victim of retaliation for speaking with U.S. Marshals, including receiving threats against his life by members of the jail’s Special Response Team.

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