Jury awards big payout to inmate beaten on jail guard's orders
Prisoner beaten in Kentucky jail because he'd dated a guard's wife is awarded $2.1 million
July 12, 2021
By Andrew Wolfson - Louisville Courier-Journal
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A man who was thrown in jail in Shelby County for stealing two boxes of Fruit Roll-Ups — then savagely beaten by other inmates on orders of a jail guard because he had previously dated the guard’s wife — has been awarded more than $2.1 million in damages.
A federal court jury returned the verdict for Joshua Reece, who suffered a traumatic brain injury and facial fractures in the attack, against former officer William Anthony Carey.
Carey, who was fired from the Shelby County Detention Center, pleaded guilty in state court to official misconduct and aiding and abetting the assault.
After the FBI read The Courier Journal’s story in 2016 about Reece’s lawsuit, Carey was charged and prosecuted for violating Reece’s civil rights, according to Garry Adams, one of his lawyers.
Carey was sentenced to four years in prison and is still serving that sentence at a federal prison in New Jersey.
Adams said Reece felt vindicated by the verdict, which was returned after a four-day trial before U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove.
Although Adams said Reece suffers from retrograde amnesia and doesn’t remember much of the attack, he was able to testify at the trials. Carey testified remotely from prison and pled the Fifth Amendment, Adams said.
Carol Petitt, one of Carey's lawyers, said Shelby County had been dismissed from the lawsuit, but Adams said it will have to pay for the damages because Carey was acting in the scope of his employment.
After deliberating for about 3½ hours, the jury returned a verdict totaling $2,184,000, including $400,000 in punitive damages.
Adams, who tried the case with David Ward, said the defense admitted liability and the only issue was damages.
According to the lawsuit, when Reece, then 31, was admitted to the jail in November 2015 after being charged with shoplifting at a Dollar Store in Simpsonville, Carey recognized him, then conspired with another deputy to place him in “Cell 317,” a “max cell” reserved for inmates charged with violent behavior.
The complaint says Carey and others approached those inmates and “directed that they beat him.” It alleged Reece was awakened by 10 to 12 inmates who on Carey’s instruction beat him for several hours, until he lost consciousness, and that when he came to, he was again being beaten in the shower.
Court records show Carey was charged in Shelby District Court with official misconduct and fourth-degree assault — minor felonies, and he pleaded guilty to the first charge and an amended charge of complicity to misdemeanor assault.
He was given a 90-day jail term that was conditionally discharged.
Adams said Reece was not consulted about the plea agreement.
The beating left Reece with permanent scarring, disfigurement, headaches, blurred vision, memory loss, post-concussion syndrome and brain trauma, according to the lawsuit.
Seven inmates were charged.
Adams said Reece had dated Carey’s wife years earlier.
“It is amazing that in modern America that such a savage beating could take place in a jail or other institution, where an individual is helpless, especially when you find out that the beating was directed by one of the people who is supposed to keep that individual safe,” Adams said when the suit was filed.