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Video showing deputy beating inmate a civil rights violation, says attorney

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The chilling video of a Pike County sheriff’s deputy punching a restrained man in the face and using pepper spray on him shows a clear-cut violation of the man’s civil rights, an attorney said Tuesday.

David Singleton, Executive Director of the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, called the video of former Deputy Jeremy Mooney assaulting Thomas Friend “an abomination.”

"I absolutely see a clear-cut civil rights violation here,” Singleton said. "What the deputy did to Thomas Friend was bold, brazen, criminal and a violation of Mr. Friend's civil and constitutional rights."

Local 12 News obtained the video through an open records request. The video was recorded by surveillance cameras at the Pike Co. Sheriff’s Office on November 18. The video shows Thomas Friend, 27, restrained in a chair inside the sheriff’s office. Then, he is moved outside by corrections Deputy Jeremy Mooney.

Mooney used pepper spray on Friend’s face twice while he was restrained in the chair as a supervisor watched. Mooney then moved Friend into the sheriff’s office where he punched him in the face 11 times on two occasions over the course of 20 minutes. The impact broke Mooney’s hand. Mooney filed a worker’s compensation claim for the injury.

"You can’t put somebody in a restraint chair like that and then use excessive force,” said Butler Co. Sheriff Richard K. Jones.

Jones’ jail houses some inmates for Pike County - including Friend - and has been in law enforcement for 45 years. Jones said there was no reason for Mooney to use pepper spray on Friend or punch him.

"It is an assault,” Sheriff Jones said of Mooney’s behavior. "It looked as though the inmate tried to kick at him but he couldn’t because he’s restrained."

Friend was initially taken into custody on November 16 on charges of assault, theft and criminal mischief. A woman called 911 to report Friend was breaking into cars and honking horns. According to an incident report, Friend bit a Pike Co. sheriff’s deputy as he was taken into custody but did not break the skin.

Pike County Interim Sheriff Jim Nelson said people who knew Friend said he was high on bath salts and methamphetamine and had been acting strangely for a couple of days.

The incident with Deputy Mooney happened on the morning of November 18 when Friend was picked up from the Butler Co. Jail to be taken to court. Sheriff Nelson said Friend was acting out in the van by kicking and spitting on other inmates.

The incident with Mooney happened two days later after Pike County picked him up to take him to a court appearance and he was acting up in the van. At some point, Friend was taken to the sheriff’s office.

Pike Co. Prosecutor Rob Junk said he was asked to review the case file shortly after Thanksgiving. After watching the video, Junk said he asked the FBI to review the case for possible federal criminal charges.

Mooney resigned after being placed on paid administrative leave but before an administrative hearing could be held. Mooney’s supervisor, Sgt. William Stansberry, was suspended for two weeks without pay and demoted to the rank of corporal.

Sheriff Jones said he would have handled the charging decision differently.

"We wouldn’t turn that over to the FBI. We would do that ourselves and but they’ve had a lot of things going on there,” Sheriff Jones said. "The sheriff’s a great guy that works there, the new sheriff and he’s got a lot on his plate when he comes in and takes over for all the things they got going on from the previous sheriff.”

Interim Sheriff Nelson was appointed to the position in August. He did not hire Mooney or Stansberry.

The previous sheriff is now-suspended Sheriff Charlie Reader who’s been indicted on 16 felony and misdemeanor charges related to the theft of money seized in drug busts, cars in the sheriff’s impound lot and loans he took from employees and a sheriff’s office vendor.

A spokesperson for the Cincinnati office of the FBI said he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation into Mooney.


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