Justice News

Department of Justice
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Three Current and One Former Lucas County, Ohio, Sheriff Officials Indicted on Civil Rights Charges

WASHINGTON – Four individuals have been indicted on charges of federal civil rights violations relating to the in-custody death of a detainee at the Lucas County Jail in Ohio and an alleged subsequent four-year cover-up of the role that jail personnel played in the death.

The indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Toledo, Ohio, was returned today and announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King of the Civil Rights Division.

The indictment alleges that on May 30, 2004, former Deputy Sheriff John E. Gray assaulted and strangled a detainee in a cell at the Lucas County Jail and then left the detainee lying unconscious without seeking medical help for him, actions which resulted in the detainee’s death. The indictment also alleges that, shortly prior to the incident that resulted in the detainee’s death, Deputy Sheriff Jay M. Schmeltz struck and assaulted the same detainee, causing bodily injury. Thereafter, according to the charges, Deputies Gray and Schmeltz wrote false reports concealing the incidents and made false statements to the FBI. Finally, the indictment alleges that Lt. Robert McBroom of the jail’s Internal Affairs Department and Sheriff James Telb concealed their knowledge of Deputy Gray’s felonies from federal authorities and that McBroom and Telb made false statements to the FBI during the course of its investigation of the detainee’s death.

"Police officers are given tremendous authority and responsibility so that they can protect and serve the public trust. Those who abuse that authority face serious consequences," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. "The Civil Rights Division is committed to prosecuting all cases of official misconduct and to bringing these individuals to justice."

If convicted, Gray will face a maximum sentence of life in prison, Schmeltz will face a maximum sentence of ten years, and McBroom and Telb will each face a maximum sentence of three years.

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Cleveland Division. The case is being prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Kristy Parker and Trial Attorney Ryan McKinstry of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.

Press Release Number: 
Updated September 15, 2014