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Former inmate files suit against Montgomery County, alleging abuse

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— A former Montgomery County Jail inmate has filed suit against the county, alleging officers beat him when they transported him to court last year.

Jose Samuels, 49, of Fulton County, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Albany this week. The suit makes a host of claims, including violation of his constitutional rights.

Samuels is being represented by attorney E. Robert Keach, who has represented multiple plaintiffs in suits related to the Montgomery County Jail.

Andrew Santillo, a county spokesman, said the county has yet to be served with the suit and he would not comment. He did confirm the county received an earlier notice of claim related to the allegations and attempted to hold a hearing to learn more, but Samuels did not appear.

Samuels is alleging he was an inmate in Fulton County in February 2015 on charges not identified in the suit.

He was to appear in Amsterdam City Court, so Montgomery County correction officers took him to the county’s jail, and from there, they were to take him to court, according to the lawsuit.

At the jail, Samuels contends he told the booking officer of his physical limitations due to a motorcycle accident the year before, including fractures and a severe concussion, that impaired his mobility, the suit claims.

Samuels requested to be in the front row of the transport van as a result, because he had trouble climbing in and out of the back seat.

Samuels made the same request to the two transport officers but was met with profanities from one of them.

When he had trouble complying with the officers’ orders due to his physical limitations, Samuels alleges an officer pushed him into the van and began punching him, the suit claims.

The other officer then pulled Samuels out of the van, causing him to hit his head multiple times on the stairs of the van. The first officer then continued to punch Samuels, the suit states.

Samuels contends the officers then brought him back into the booking area, covered in blood, and yelled profanities and racial slurs at him.

Samuels suffered injuries to his eyes, face, pelvis and extremities, among other injuries, the suit states.

Once Samuels returned to the Fulton County Jail, his wife contacted Montgomery County Jail Administrator Michael Franko and demanded disciplinary action for the transport officers. Jail officials then took photographs and a statement, but the suit alleges no meaningful investigation or actions resulted.

The suit also references other allegations of officer-perpetrated assaults at the jail, calling the Samuels case “part of a pattern of misconduct at the Montgomery County Jail for which Sheriff (Michael) Amato and Jail Administrator Franko are responsible.”

Regarding the hearing Santillo contended the county tried to hold, Keach, who has filed multiple lawsuits against the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, said such a hearing is not required for a federal lawsuit.

In 2006, the county settled a jail strip-search lawsuit filed by Keach for $2 million.

Among the other lawsuits filed by Keach is one filed in July related to allegations against two jail guards that resulted in charges related to former inmate Ryan Cook.

Cook alleged he suffered assaults on more than 20 occasions at the hands of correction officers at the Montgomery County Jail in 2015.

The suit also claims the assaults constituted “severe physical and psychological abuse” and went on from July to October of 2015.

One officer pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor official misconduct charge related to the Cook case and another pleaded guilty to violation-level disorderly conduct.

Keach also filed a suit in November 2015 alleging negligence in the death of an inmate at the jail in 2014 and one filed in 2014 that alleges inmates at the Montgomery County Jail were not being adequately fed, leading to substantial losses in body weight and symptoms of malnutrition.

Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.

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