NEW ALBANY – A woman and three men have sued a southern Indiana sheriff and three jail officers for allegedly stripping and torturing them.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, accuses Floyd County Sheriff Darrell Mills and the officers of violating their constitutional rights. The suit seeks class-action status, alleging other former inmates of the New Albany jail might have faced similar treatment.
The plaintiffs – Tabitha Gentry, Vincent Minton, Michael Herron and Adam Walker – say the jail officers forcibly removed their clothes and left them without clothing for prolonged periods when they did not pose any threat. They also said they were subjected to offensive touching and excessive use of force while their clothing was removed and afterward.
Their lawyer, Laura Landenwich of Louisville, previously released video obtained from the jail of Gentry, a 32-year-old New Albany woman. She was arrested March 30 on suspicion of public intoxication, disorderly conduct and resisting law enforcement, all misdemeanors, after a domestic disturbance.
The video from surveillance cameras showed three officers, including one man, struggling with Gentry as they removed her clothing and left her naked or partly covered in a padded cell for five hours.
At one point, Gentry had to urinate down a floor drain, the lawsuit alleges.
After Gentry’s March arrest, an officer’s report described removing the clothing as jail policy, according to records provided by Landenwich.
Mills has said the jail has no policy to strip-search inmates. He said inmates can be undressed if the clothing needs to be searched, but affected inmates are given smocks to cover up. A message seeking additional comment was left at his office Friday.
The three men allege that they faced treatment similar to that experienced by Gentry after misdemeanor arrests for offenses including public intoxication, intimidation and disorderly conduct between February 2013 and late May.
Minton, 23, of Nabb, and Walker, 31, of Georgetown, claim they also were shocked with stun guns. Walker, who had been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, said he was shocked seven times and choked, losing consciousness, after arguing with an officer he said winked at him.
Herron, 36, is from Henryville.