Montgomery County Sheriff’s Sergeant Alleges Jail Cover-Up of Excessive Force

A former Montgomery County Sheriff’s sergeant accused in a lawsuit of beating jailed homeless veteran Joseph Guglielmo into a coma announced before the incident that he planned to “beat that old man’s (expletive),” according to testimony in the lawsuit from another former sergeant.

Sgt. Eric Banks, who retired from the department on medical disability this month, was deposed Nov. 15 in Guglielmo’s lawsuit against the county, Sheriff Phil Plummer and six sheriff’s employees.

One of those employees is former Sgt. Matthew Snyder. According to the lawsuit, he “beat Guglielmo repeatedly and threw him against the concrete wall” and “delivered several closed-fist strikes” to Guglielmo’s head, eye area and abdomen.

Snyder and other corrections officers named in the suit deny any excessive use of force. An internal review of the incident determined that Snyder did not violate agency policy.

Banks says in the deposition that Snyder was upset with Guglielmo because the inmate was yelling and banging his fist on the window of the cell during roll call.

Snyder was a sergeant at the time of the incident and later took a voluntary demotion to deputy. In his deposition, Banks said Snyder told him “he didn’t want to be a sergeant after that incident.”

Banks accuses the sheriff’s office of attempting to sweep under the rug alleged excessive use-of-force incidents.

“That makes everybody — that makes it harder to do the profession when people are getting away with this stuff because it brings more scrutiny on people who are trying to do their job the right way,” Banks said according to a transcript of his deposition, which is filed in U.S. District Court.

Asked to respond to the allegations by Banks, Plummer said the county’s attorneys have advised him not to comment.

The Guglielmo incident occurred on Jan. 16, 2015. In November of that year, a female inmate was pepper-sprayed while strapped into a restraint chair.

A video of the incident, released by the woman’s attorney, shows sheriff’s Capt. Judith Sealey administering the pepper spray to the bound woman, Amber Swink.

Swink filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office, which was settled for $375,000. Sealey was charged with misdemeanor assault and has pleaded not guilty. A federal investigation is also ongoing.

Banks said he reported the pepper-spray incident to his supervisors because he thought the department under-responded to the Guglielmo case.

But after he talked to jail Capt. Charles Crosby about the Swink incident, Banks says, “They took some drastic steps to prevent that case from ever being exposed.”

In the deposition, Banks testifies that “a massive amount of video was erased off of the V drive in the jail computer” a few days after he and another sergeant reported the pepper-spray incident.

Swink’s attorney, Douglas Brannon, has never said where he got the video, which he posted online when Swink filed her lawsuit in September 2016.

Banks was deposed by Brannon, who is also representing Guglielmo in his lawsuit. The transcript shows Banks repeatedly declined to have an attorney present, though the county interrupted the deposition to offer to hire him one.

“All my intention was to tell the truth about what happened,” Banks says in the deposition.

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