On Jan. 14 a civil suit was filed in Clay Circuit Court against Sheriff Rob Carter, the Clay County Sheriff's Department, Clay County and the Clay County Board of Commissioners.
Complainant Floyd Batchelor alleges that while incarcerated in an overcrowded cell at the Clay County Jail on May 14, he was attacked due to jail personnel's negligence.
Batchelor was arrested on May 13, 2004 at 9:44 a.m. for failure to appear, possession of methamphetamine, and possession of a handgun without a permit.
Batchelor claims that two inmates covered a camera with a sheet and proceeded to beat and kick him into unconsciousness some time on May 13. He suffered serious head and brain injuries that required a trip to the St. Vincent Clay Hospital emergency room for treatment.
Batchelor claims that lack of jail staffing caused him to lie in the cell for hours until medical attention was provided some time the morning of May 14, 2004.
"We're not accusing criminal action," said Timothy Bookwalter, attorney for Floyd Batchelor. "We believe there wasn't proper supervision available in the jail."
Attorney Bookwalter, who represents the Putnam County Commissioners and was recently appointed Putnam County Prosecutor in January of this year, has filed the case in an effort to obtain jail records. Possible items that could be obtained include any documentation pertinent to the hours of Batchelor's incarceration and video footage if available.
"We only did this after the insurance company for Clay County denied Batchelor's medical claims," Bookwalter said, explaining that his client needs funds to pay medical bills incurred from the incident at the jail. "He's unable to get the medical treatment needed for the recovery process."
Batchelor claims to have suffered permanent brain and vision injuries resulting from the May 14 incident. He is seeking compensation for medical bills, lost income, permanent injuries and impairments, future medical bills and pain and suffering.
Because this case would involve a local judge, local law enforcement personnel and the county commissioners, a motion to change the venue was filed by Bookwalter in an effort to prevent bias against his client.
"Under the advice of the attorney it would be highly inappropriate to comment on this matter," Clay County Sheriff Rob Carter said, explaining as long as the case was pending, he would not be able to discuss Batchelor's complaint.
"However, on lawsuits in general, the sheriff is an easy target unfortunately, because we have no immunity to speak of. We are charged with law enforcement duties and operating a jail which are two magnets for law suits. I'm not unique. I think every sheriff is involved in a lawsuit at some point.""Inmates sue all the time," Clay County Commissioner Daryl Andrews said when asked about the case. "The only thing unique about this one is that Batchelor's counsel is also the Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney."
"The Ethics Guidelines of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, in rule 2, allow a prosecutor to file a civil action against state or public officials in another county that are unrelated to a prosecutor's duties," Bookwalter said, explaining his own concern about the rules since he had taken Batchelor's case before being appointed as Putnam County Prosecutor. "I can file civil suits as part of my private practice, but not criminal cases."