October 16, 2012

Gay man sues Kentucky jail, says part of his nose was bitten off by inmate harassing him

An incarcerated gay man sued a southern Kentucky jail and a fellow inmate Tuesday, claiming the prisoner bit off part of his nose after days of harassment.

Brandon Milam said he was disfigured, lost his sense of smell and was still in pain from the July attack in the Warren County Regional Jail, according to his lawsuit.

Milam claims Timothy Schwartz and other inmates used gay slurs and threatened him for about a week before Schwartz bit off part of his nose and then spit the piece of flesh onto the floor.

The severed piece was found by another inmate. Doctors at a hospital in Nashville, Tenn., tried to reattach it but were unsuccessful, the lawsuit said.

"It's a real tragedy that this would happen in a protective custody setting, this outrageously violent act," M. Austin Mehr, one of Milam's attorneys, said this week. "It was just like an animal."

Milam, 26, faces a series of reconstructive surgeries that will cost tens of thousands of dollars, Mehr said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for pain, suffering and medical expenses.

Schwartz was indicted on an assault charge and has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Walter Hawkins, did not immediately return a call.

Schwartz was in jail for an alleged scheme to forge signatures of family members of disabled people, file false Medicaid claims and charge Medicaid for services not provided, according to The Daily News in Bowling Green. He is still being held in the same jail.

Milam was jailed for violating his probation for a guilty plea to felony theft, the suit said. The jail and its top official, Jailer Jackie Strode, were aware Milam was gay but placed him in a single cell with about 14 other men, the suit said.

Strode did not immediately return a call Tuesday.

Defendants in the suit include the jail, its top official, the county and Schwartz.

The suit accused the jail and jailer of breach of duty and negligence.

Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken declined immediate comment, saying she had not yet seen the lawsuit.

Milam was attacked while sitting on his bed, the suit said. Schwartz pinned Milam against the wall and punched him in the face, then bit off part of Milam's nose, according to the lawsuit.

Bartley Hagerman, another attorney for Milam, said jail guards were slow to respond.

"You would think with all of the commotion they would have gotten there quicker," Hagerman said.

Milam has since been placed on house arrest, Mehr said.

Kentucky Equality Federation, a gay rights and civil rights group that has offered assistance to Milam, has urged federal authorities to pursue a case against Schwartz as a hate crime.

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