County to pay $375k in jail pepper-spray lawsuit

County to pay $375k in jail pepper-spray lawsuit

View CaptionHide Caption
A video image shows Amber Swink after she was pepper sprayed while in a seven-point harness in an isolation room at the Montgomery County Jail.

Montgomery County officials have agreed to pay $375,000 to settle a federal civil lawsuit brought by a woman who was pepper-sprayed by a corrections officer while strapped into a restraint chair at the Montgomery County jail, according to Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck.

Heck disclosed the dollar amount of the settlement, but said other details were still being worked out.

Amber Swink, 25, filed suit in September 2016 alleging civil rights violations, violations of jail policy and claiming an attempted cover-up because jail-video of the incident disappeared from county records.

Swink’s attorney, Douglas Brannon, said the federal civil rights lawsuit was settled Wednesday after a private mediation run by former Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Joe Bressler.

“I can officially tell you that it’s an amicable agreement,” Brannon said. “I can tell you that Amber is happy to be moving forward with her life at this point.”

Brannon said Swink is currently finishing the MonDay drug treatment program.

Swink was pepper-sprayed by Judith Sealey in November 2015. Sealey was then a sergeant in the jail but has since been promoted to captain.

After video of the incident became public, Sealey was suspended pending an assault investigation but returned to duty when a Montgomery County grand jury declined to bring charges.

Court documents show that the incident led jail personnel to be investigated by U.S. Dept. of Justice’s civil rights division, the U.S. Attorneys’ Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Dayton police department.

After the grand jury declined to bring felony charges, Dayton police then presented the case to Dayton city prosecutors.

Assistant city prosecutor Andy Sexton said Thursday that the case was presented to the city, but that another entity would be deciding whether to bring charges in Dayton Municipal Court. Sexton declined to name the other entity.

Swink was being held in the jail because of an incident that night in which she was accused of assaulting a police officer. She pleaded guilty later to that charge and was ordered to rehab in April after failing to comply with the terms of her sentence.

Sheriff Phil Plummer did not return a message seeking comment.

Swink’s lawsuit was one of several recent suits against Montgomery County Jail staff. Some of the other plaintiffs are represented by Brannon.

“We’re going to continue moving forward on each and every one of those other cases,” Brannon said. “We’ll diligently try to resolve those cases, either through the court or through settlement, whatever happens first.”

Weather and Traffic