ashland.news
July 23, 2024

OSF actor’s lawsuit against sheriff’s office should go to trial, judge rules

In an image taken from video at the Jackson County Jail, Juan Sancho is forced to the ground by three sheriff's deputies.
September 13, 2023

Judge says jury should decide whether handcuffing prisoner to a grate in the floor of a cell for two-and-a-half hours was necessary

By Kevin Opsahl, Rogue Valley Times

A former Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor’s civil lawsuit against the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office over allegations of excessive force in 2019 should go to trial, according to a federal magistrate.

United States Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke ruled Aug. 15 in federal court in Medford that deputies did not violate the law for the way they handled Juan Anthony Sancho during the intake process at the Jackson County Jail on April 18, 2019, after Sancho was allegedly uncooperative with police in Ashland who found him intoxicated on the street. 

Nor did Clarke believe deputies acted wrongfully when they initiated a “takedown” of Sancho at the jail for being uncooperative during the intake process.

But the judge did find that deputies were wrong to shackle Sancho to a grate in the floor of a cell for two-and-a-half hours.

“The court finds that … the plaintiff’s right not to be shackled to the grate in the floor where he had recently urinated” was enough to move the lawsuit forward to a jury, Clarke wrote.

He wrote that while the court cannot determine whether defendants should have used other means to safely restrain Sancho, “this evidence raises a question of fact regarding whether the handcuffing to the grate was necessary,” which should be heard by a jury, Clarke wrote. “A reasonable juror could find that handcuffing plaintiff to a metal grate in a concrete floor, where he had recently urinated, had no legitimate purpose, and it was a punishment for being loud and disruptive.”

Clarke recommended two of the sheriff’s office employees named in the suit, Deputy Tawnya Sellers and Sgt. Jeffrey Carpenter, be dismissed from the case because they had not acted illegally.

Jackson County Counsel Joel Benton, the lead attorney representing the sheriff’s office, had no comment because the litigation is ongoing.

Matthew Rowan, Sancho’s lead attorney on the case, did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

The findings from Clarke have been forwarded to U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken for a final decision.

Both Sancho’s and the county’s attorneys will have an opportunity to make additional arguments before Aiken. Objections to Clarke’s recommendation are due by Oct. 2, according to court records.

Sept. 14: This story was corrected to clarify that no Jackson County Sheriff’s Office employees have been deemed liable in the case.

Reporter Kevin Opsahl can be reached at 458-488-2034 or kopsahl@rv-times.com. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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