October 16, 2012

The Kentucky Equality Federation drafted the lawsuit on behalf of Milam; a gay ex-inmate at Warren County Jail

Brandon Milam, an openly gay former inmate of the Warren County Regional Jail, is expected to file a lawsuit today in Warren Circuit Court against the jail, Warren County, Jailer Jackie Strode and inmate Timothy Michael Schwartz.

Milam told the Daily News last month that he believes homophobia motivated a jailhouse assault that caused Milam to lose a portion of his nose in July.

Minutes after teaching a group of other inmates how to play the card game hearts, Milam, 26, was sitting on the bottom bunk of the bed in his jail cell when another inmate who lost the game shouted gay slurs before assaulting him July 2, Milam said in September.

That inmate, Schwartz, 41, of Scottsville, is accused of biting off a portion of Milam’s nose, according to court records. A grand jury indicted Schwartz in July on a first-degree assault charge. Schwartz pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a pretrial conference at 1 p.m. Dec. 3.

The Kentucky Equality Federation, a public advocacy organization for victims of discrimination, hate crimes and school bullying, publicly condemned the incident last month and drafted the lawsuit on Milam’s behalf. On Monday, the federation provided the newspaper with a copy of the lawsuit the organization plans to file. The suit couldn’t be filed Monday due to a furlough day for state judicial workers.

“We haven’t been served yet. Until the county is properly served, I don’t feel comfortable making a comment,” Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken said, speaking on behalf of both the county and the county jail.

In September, Milam told the Daily News he would need four surgical procedures to repair his nose, with the first estimated to cost $26,000.

Milam is no longer answering questions from the media, said Jordan Palmer, the federation’s president. “He is embarrassed to be seen in public,” Palmer said. “At this point, he is just hoping that this will be resolved quickly so that he can have this reconstructive surgery.”

The lawsuit alleges that the jail failed to protect Milam from harm by allowing him to remain in a protective custody cell with other inmates who are prejudiced against homosexuals. It further alleges negligence and “intentional infliction of emotional distress and outrageous conduct,” jailer’s breach of duty and common law bad faith and breach of fiduciary duty.

“He has lost his sense of smell,” Palmer said. “He is still awaiting reconstructive surgery” and is undergoing therapy to cope with the nightmares about the attack. Milam is asking in his lawsuit for a jury trial, compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees and interest.

At the time of the incident. Milam was serving time for a probation violation before being released to home incarceration July 10, he said.

Schwartz, who remains in jail, faces charges in a separate case of theft by unlawful taking of property valued at $10,000 or greater, devising or engaging in a scheme to defraud the Kentucky Medical Assistance Program of $300 or more and five counts of third-degree forgery.

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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.