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Cuyahoga County jailers defend themselves on witness stand

Trial of two jailers goes to the jury
Jailers in court
Posted at 6:00 PM, Sep 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-20 19:00:55-04

CLEVELAND — Two Cuyahoga County jailers on trial for their roles in what investigators call a February 2018 attack on an inmate took the witness stand, defending themselves Friday.

Corrections Officer John Wilson is charged with beating inmate Joshua Castleberry, 21, inside Castleberry's jail cell. Investigators say two of Castleberry's teeth were knocked out and a third lodged in his nasal cavity.

Jail Corporal Jason Jozwiak is accused of not allowing nurses to treat Castleberry's injuries and lying to investigators.

On Friday, Jozwiak denied blocking nurses from treating Castleberry. Jozwiak said that a nurse who made the allegations was wrong.

And Wilson's testimony also will force jurors to decide who they believe.

The officer rebutted Castleberry's testimony that the inmate was compliant and never fought with officers inside the cell.

Wilson said the inmate seemed to have a bad attitude that day, and repeatedly refused orders to stand along the back wall of his cell with his hands on the window.

Wilson said the third time Castleberry turned toward him, the inmate had his fist clenched.

"At that time I did feel he may attack me, so that's why I applied pepper foam, that way I did not have to go hands-on," said Wilson.

He said despite being pepper-sprayed, Castleberry continued to fight and punched Wilson in the head, giving the officer a concussion.

"Using a hip toss, I tossed him to my right toward the bunk to take him to the floor," said Wilson.

Castleberry testified earlier in the trial that Wilson repeatedly jammed his head into the floor. Wilson denied that and said he wasn't sure how Castleberry's teeth were knocked out.

"I'm not going to speculated on how it happened," said Wilson. "I took him to the floor."

But prosecutors painted Wilson as the aggressor. In closing arguments, they pointed out it was only Wilson and Castleberry in the cell for two and a half minutes with no video recordings.

Prosecutors called the defense's claims that the use of force was justified because Castleberry appeared threatening little more than "code words."

"It's garbage," said special prosecutor Matthew Meyer. "They're made up after the fact to justify an awful and brutal thing that was done to another human being."

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