Former jail inmate says he will sue Ellis County
By 01/24/2002 00:00:00
The Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE - Robert Talton, a 41-year-old former Ellis County jail inmate, said he will sue the county sheriff's department.
According to Talton, an Ellis County Sheriff sergeant forced him to drink a cup of water out of a commode early last year. With two other deputies standing over him, Talton said he felt threatened and felt that force would have been used against him if he did not comply with the order.
'If you had three officers standing over you, how would you feel?' Talton said. Talton said the three deputies and him were in the officer's restroom, located on the second floor of the jail.
According to a letter received by The Ellis County Press and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Talton said he was put under 'a lot of pressure and was forced to drink water from a toilet bowl on the second floor' of the jail facility.
Talton was in jail for a probation violation [drugs]. Talton was on a medium-security trustee status, meaning he wasn't confined to a cell. He did cleaning and other jobs for some of the deputies.
The commode incident took place on the 'very first night as trustee.'
Talton stated in his letter, 'There was another act performed on my third night as trustee.'
The sergeant who allegedly forced Talton to drink out of the commode 'was inside the restroom in question for about 10 minutes.' He came out and another officer went in to the restroom and said ‘It smells like someone died in there,' with the other officers standing and laughing.
'Another officer came to me to say, ‘I have to take a dump, so I need you to go and mop that restroom so I can,'' Talton said. Talton said the officer didn't need to use the restroom.
Talton did not disclose terms of the lawsuit or the name of his attorney.
'They violated my civil rights,' Talton said. 'It was inconsiderate for me to drink out of the commode. They [sheriff's department] thought I was just going to let this go.'
Talton said the sergeant was a known nephew of Sheriff Ray Stewart and resigned a short time after the incident occurred. After the toilet incident occurred, Talton said word started to spread around the jail, and deputies were laughing.
'Captain Cheeks started [an] investigation, but it's not much of an internal investigation if everybody knows about it. What they did was wrong. I tried telling them [officers] that this wasn't right. I asked why they think they could be doing me like this and they laughed. I got fed up with this crap,' said Talton.
'When he [sergeant] resigned, that was just an admission of guilt in my opinion,' Talton said. 'Why else would you just resign one day?'
According to Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Charles Sullins, the sergeant and the other two officers are no longer employed by the Ellis County Sheriff's Department.
'One is in Washington state somewhere,' Sullins said. 'I really don't know where the others are.'
A grievance was also filed in response to the incident.
'The sergeant called me into his office to talk to me about it,' Talton said. 'He should have never gotten a copy of the grievance. In fact, he took out the page that implicated him. That is tampering with evidence.
'I tried getting my letter to the editor published in the [Waxahachie] Daily Light, but they wouldn't do it. I want to get all of the news stations around here to do something on my case to show everybody what's going on. If the Ellis County Sheriff's Department would investigate these guys, they'd find out some things.
'There's a lot of things that go on in this county that people don't know about,' Talton said.
Talton also went to the Ellis County chapter of the National Association for the Avancement of Colored People to try to get help.
'Victor Burnett [NAACP president] certainly wasn't any help,' Talton said. 'He pushed me off to the side. Him and [Sullins] tried to get me to drop this case in exchange for less jail time and to have the offense taken off my record. He [Burnett] said I could get my time cut if I would just go down to Houston and forget that this never happened.'
'No, I never said that, no,' Burnett said. 'Call Sullins and ask him. He knows. My duty was to make sure they [the officers] were gone. I'm not going to be a part of suing the county, no.'
'I never tried making any agreement to drop his felony,' Sullins said. 'There never was a discussion about it on my part. Victor Burnett came in with a complaint from Talton and asked what we [ECSO] were doing [with the investigation]. Burnett agreed with the Internal Affairs Investigation, so he left. Talton and Burnett talked by themselves, so I don't know what they said. I'm not shunning away from anything. It's litigation. I've answered everything I possibly could.'
Sullins said Talton should have his attorney speak with the Ellis County sheriff's attorney for further insight and information as to the investigation and the lawsuit.
Talton said Burnett spoke out publicly for the first time on behalf of the sheriff's department in a Daily Light article. In it, Burnett was quoted, 'To the best of my knowledge the sheriff is doing a great job with this internal affairs investigation.
'I did my part,' Burnett said. 'I don't know how the D.A. [Ellis County District Attorney Joe Grubbs] did their case. There was some kind of disciplinary action taken. '
Talton wants to make sure the deputies and officers involved should never be allowed to work in any other jail facility.
'Not just in Ellis County, but the nation,' Talton said. 'This type of punishment should not be allowed to happen simply because he or she feel they have the power and/or authority to do so. I will not rest until justice prevails in this matter.'