ANNISTON, Ala. (CN) - The mother of a teen-age boy in the sheriff's "scared straight" program says the sheriff assaulted and choked her handcuffed son in the county jail, after a deputy had threatened to "slit your throat, cut your balls off, shove them down your throat, and stomp you until you bleed." And she says the sheriff's assault was caught on video camera.
The mother and her 14-year-old son sued Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson and "Deputy Ward," the alleged assailant, for federal civil rights violations.
Stacy Brown says she enrolled her son, J.B., in the "scared straight" program after he got into some unspecified trouble at school.
In J.B.'s first day in the program, she says, as a guard took J.B. and another boy on a tour of the jail, "The guards then spoke to the inmates and asked the inmates if they wanted some little boys in there with them. The inmates said, 'yes'. One of the inmates stated, while pointing at J.B., 'I want that little black one right there,'" according to the complaint.
The complaint continues: "J.B. then asked Officer Ward if he could leave that area. Ward then took J.B. down to the corner and told him to face the wall. J.B. turned toward the wall, while facing the wall, he turned his head and scratched his face. Officer Ward told him to turn his face back to the wall. J.B. said he turned back around, he says he had an itch on his face again and turned his head to scratch it. Officer Ward then said to J.B., 'you are going to do what I tell you to do.' Officer Ward threatened, 'I will slit your throat, cut your balls off, shove them down your throat, and stomp you until you bleed.'"
Then Ward told J.B. "to go to the front office and do pushups." In the office, J.B. says, he told two people there what had just happened.
When Ward found out J.B. had "told on him," J.B. and his mom say, Ward had the boy beaten up.
The complaint states: "Officer Ward tapped J.B. on the shoulder and said, 'If you tell on me again, see what happens.' J.B. told him, 'what you are going to put me up in the office again?'
"Officer Ward stated, 'What are you going to do?' J.B. replied, 'I am going to call my momma.' J.B. and Officer Ward exchanged words back and forth. Officer Ward said, 'let's go call your mom.'
"They were walking in a corridor and when they got to a door, Officer Ward said to another officer, 'do not let him out that door.' Four officers (Names Unknown) then surrounded him and another officer (Name Unknown) said, 'I just want some one to beat this nigger up.'"
After more threats and scuffles with the guards, and after he asked to call his mom, the guard put J.B. into a room "for a long time, between one and two hours," the complaint states.
Finally, the complaint states: "Sheriff Amerson came into the room. This is the point where the assault was captured on video. The video clearly shows Sheriff Amerson assaulting J.B., a 14 year old in handcuffs placed behind his back and shackles.
"Sheriff Amerson's attitude toward use of excessive violence is clear in the video as well. The Sheriff sat closely to the handcuffed and shackled 14 year old plaintiff. The Sheriff sat relaxed, with his legs crossed towards the child, leaning toward him with his arm around him. The Sheriff obviously did not fear for his safety or for the safety of others.
"At the time Sheriff Amerson grabbed him by the neck for the first time to choke him, J.B. was turned and leaning away from the Sheriff in fear of what the Sheriff would do to him. After the first round of choking, Sheriff Amerson continued to sit closely to J.B. with his arm around him. J.B. was very nervous and scared, while the Sheriff was very calm and deliberate before the violence ensued. A short time later, a second assault on J.B. occurred.
"J.B. was a child participating in a community service program for troubled teens, not an inmate, though such use of force against an inmate would be unlawful as well under the circumstances."
Physical confrontations with the sheriff and deputies continued: "(O)ther officers surrounded and handcuffed J.B. They took him to another room, removed the handcuffs, and closed the door. Douglas, and two other inmates, were outside of the door off to the side. When he saw the officer get his radio, believing that they were going to send the inmates in the room where he was, J.B. flipped the table, picked up the chair and began to hit the window.
"After that an officer came in the room and removed the table and chairs. After they left, he began to pull the wires on the wall. Officers came back into the room and took J.B. back to the other room. J.B. waited there until he was transported to Juvenile Probation office.
"J.B. was transported to the Coosa Valley Juvenile Detention Facility where officers there took pictures of J.B.'s injuries. The officers there also took J.B.'s complaint about his treatment at the Calhoun County Jail. His mother was also notified of the allegations against the Sheriff and Deputies, and of J.B.'s physical injuries.
"Sheriff Amerson, in an effort to cover up his own misconduct, brought charges of criminal mischief and harassment against J.B.
"While on the stand in juvenile court regarding the charges against J.B., the Sheriff
Page 6 of 13 falsified the facts about what happened to J.B. at the Calhoun County Jail."
The Associated Press reported that Amerson has asked the FBI to review the videotape of the alleged assault, saying an independent investigation was needed.
The mother and her son seek compensatory damages from each defendant of $500,000 and punitive damages of $500,000, for excessive force, conspiracy, and violations of J.B.'s civil rights and constitutional rights.
They are represented by E. Peyton Faulk of Montgomery.
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