CLEVELAND, Ohio — Investigators who have been probing conditions in the Cuyahoga County Jail for more than 18 months uncovered incidents where body camera videos recorded by corrections officers had been deleted, an FBI special agent testified Tuesday.
Special agent Dennis Timony, while testifying in the trial of two jail guards charged in connection with the February 2018 beating of an inmate, told Ohio Attorney General’s Office’s special prosecutor Matthew Meyer that the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department no longer uses the same body cameras and video storage system that it did at the time of that incident.
Meyer asked Timony if he knew why.
“There were instances when cameras and coverage from these cameras, that were taken by these cameras, had been deleted, and we learned about it,” Timony said.
Timony did not elaborate on the types of videos that were supposedly deleted, or say whether corrections officers or jail staff were suspected of deleting them.
Cuyahoga County spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan was not immediately able to respond to the claims Tuesday.
Timony’s statements came in the trial of corrections officer John Wilson and corporal Jason Jozwiak, who are charged in connection with a Feb. 5, 2018 incident beating that left inmate Joshua Castleberry with permanent facial damage. After the attack, Castleberry was restrained in a chair for several hours without being taken for emergency treatment.
The incident itself was not captured on video, partly because Wilson was a member of the jail’s Special Response Team, which responded to the most volatile situations in the jail but did not wear body cameras at the time.
Timony testified that once body camera videos were uploaded into the old video storage system, the names of the files could be changed. Someone could also take the SD card or the camera itself and upload the videos onto devices outside the sheriff’s department’s computer system, Timony testified.
The testimony comes days after another corporal, Idris-Farid Clark, pleaded not guilty to felony extortion and intimidation charges. Clark, who is also charged with assault for pepper-spraying an inmate while she was strapped to a restraint chair, is accused of threatening to publicly release videos of a jail officer if that officer testified against Clark in the assault case.
“I have videos available to me that could incriminate you if released,” Clark told the officer in a phone call recorded by investigators, according to court records. “You’d be sitting in the same boat I’m in.”
It is the latest incident of investigators accusing staff in the jail of failing to follow body camera protocol.
Surveillance video released by Cuyahoga County in response to a court challenge from cleveland.com shows corporal Nicholas Evans turn off his body camera before he pummeled the face of the 47-year-old inmate who was strapped in a restraint chair in March.
Clark did not turn on his body camera in the incident that led to him being charged, or in the incident that brought Timony into a Cuyahoga County courtroom on Tuesday.
The jail’s former warden, Eric Ivey, pleaded guilty in August to misdemeanor charges that accused him of ordering corrections officers to turn off their body cameras during an investigation into an inmate’s overdose death.
Body camera videos are often key pieces of evidence in both internal and criminal investigations, as well as civil proceedings. In addition to a number of criminal investigations, several current and former inmates in the jail have filed lawsuits over their treatment in the jail.