CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cuyahoga County Jail officer is charged in connection with an incident in which he is accused of repeatedly stomping and kicking an inmate’s arm through a food chute in the inmate’s cell door for no reason.
Officer Jermaine Clements, 39, is charged with first-degree misdemeanor assault. Clements entered an online plea of not guilty to the charge on Thursday.
Clements is accused of stomping on the inmate’s arm on Dec. 17. A Cuyahoga County Sheriff detective wrote in court records that Nelson did nothing to provoke an attack from Clements and that Nelson was “docile” during the incident.
Nelson, 25, was treated at the jail, county records. The extent of the injuries were not listed in county or court records. City prosecutors filed the charge against Clements on July 2.
Cuyahoga County spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan did not immediately respond to questions about whether or not Clements is still on active duty. Clements was suspended 15 days without pay for the incident.
Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association union attorney Adam Chaloupka said the union will represent Clements.
“The sheriff’s department already found this was objectively reasonable and didn’t raise to the level of termination, by issuing him a suspension instead of firing him,” Chaloupka said. “They can’t now say it was objectively unreasonable and charge him with a crime.”
The county issued the discipline against Clements on May 14 for using excessive force. County officials for five months have not released body camera and surveillance video despite repeated requests from cleveland.com.
Clements has been a corrections officer for five years and for three years worked on the jail’s Special Response Team, known as the Men in Black because of their paramilitary gear. The jail’s SRT team was specifically cited in a November 2018 U.S. Marshals Service report on the jail that found members repeatedly abused and threatened inmates.
The Dec. 17 incident started when Nelson stuck his hand out of the food chute to get Clements’ attention so he could speak with a jail supervisor, according to documents in Clements’ disciplinary case.
Clements refused his request and threatened to stomp his hand if he didn’t pull his hand out of the chute, according to the disciplinary records.
Nelson left his hand dangling from the chute and Clements slammed the door on the inmate’s arm, according to court records and disciplinary records. He grabbed Clements’ hand and stomped on his arm five times, according to the disciplinary files.
Clements in his statements to county investigators said Nelson threatened to throw urine and feces on him and had acted “belligerent” that day, the records say, although surveillance and body camera videos didn’t support that claim.
Clements told investigators he was passing out lunch trays because the jail was understaffed.
A report written by Associate Warden Phillip Christopher said body camera video did not show Nelson grabbing Clements’ arm, nor did Clements mention anything to responding officers about Nelson grabbing him, according to the report.
Christopher wrote that Clements’ actions were “excessive and unnecessary” and that Nelson posed no immediate threat at the time Clements stomped on Nelson’s arm.
Nelson was treated by jail medical staff, then put in an isolated cell reserved for discipline, the records say. He remains jailed on $150,000 bond on charges of felonious assault, discharging a firearm and having weapons under disability.
Clements’ personnel file shows he was disciplined several times for failing to show up for work, or for taking off too many days.
He was not punished after a 2018 suspected drunken driving arrest. In that case, he pleaded no contest to reckless operation. He was fined $600, a one-year license suspension and three days in a driver’s intervention program.