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Former jail director Ken Mills, convicted of dereliction of duty, sentenced to 9 months in jail

Judge: 'Look at yourself in the mirror'
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Posted at 10:49 AM, Oct 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-09 08:00:27-04

CLEVELAND — Former Cuyahoga County Jail Director Ken Mills, who was found guilty by a jury of four misdemeanor counts of falsification and dereliction of duty, has been sentenced to spend time behind bars.

Judge Patricia Cosgrove sentenced Mills to nine months in jail, which was what prosecutors had sought.

He will not be serving his sentence at the Cuyahoga County Jail.

Mills declined to speak during his sentencing.

"No, thank you judge," he said when asked if he wanted to say anything.

Investigators said he lied to Cuyahoga County Council about his role in blocking the hiring of nurses inside the jail leading up to the string of eight inmate deaths in the last six months of 2018.

In September, a jury made up of seven men and five women deliberated for just under seven hours. Their verdicts were as follows:

  • Count 1 is a felony tampering with records—not guilty
  • Count 2 is misdemeanor falsification—guilty
  • Count 3 is misdemeanor falsification—guilty
  • Count 4 is misdemeanor dereliction of duty—guilty
  • Count 5 is misdemeanor dereliction of duty— guilty

Mills eventually resigned in November 2018, days before the release of the US Marshal's report that called conditions inside the jail "inhumane."

Cosgrove said the defense had objected to the statements of the victims, saying “they were not victims.” Before delivering a sentence, she clarified that Article 1, Section 10 of the Ohio Constitution, known as Marsy’s Law defines a victim in broad terms. She referenced Section D, and when defining a victim, “it means a person against whom a criminal offense or delinquent act is committed or who is directly and proximately harmed by the commission of the offense of act.”

“And that is why the court allowed information specifically regarding the condition suffered by the inmates,” Cosgrove said.

She reiterated that during the trial she made it “crystal clear” that Mills was not charged with causing any death of any particular inmate in the jail. His actions, however, contributed to an atmosphere of indifference, she said.

Victim impact statements
Eight individuals died in 2018, and a ninth one died in 2019. Family members of some of the victims gave heartfelt, emotional statements about how their lives were forever changed.

The first to speak was Wendy, the sister of Gregory Fox who was 36 years old when he hung himself in his cell with a sheet wrapped around his neck.

According to a lawsuit filed in 2019 by his family, staff “failed to provide Gregory with necessary mental health care and medication and failed to take necessary steps to prevent his suicide."

“Life will never be the same again. I’m angry and I’m hurt and disappointed and broken-hearted that Greg suffered in a facility by Cuyahoga County with individuals who were supposed to be smart, educated, hardworking and privileged,” Wendy said.

RELATED: Cuyahoga County awards family of inmate who died from suicide nearly $1 million settlement

Another impact statement came from the son of 47-year-old Joseph Arquillo, who died from an overdose while in Cuyahoga County Jail. Former jailer Martin Devring, who pleaded guilty in connection to the incident, kicked a mat next to where Arquillo was having an overdose.

RELATED: Ex-jailer who took plea deal in connection with 2018 inmate death sentenced to jail time

His son, Joseph Arquillo Jr. said he has watched the video over and over again of his father lying motionless on a mat while having an overdose.

“It's ingrained in my mind. And each time, my heart breaks knowing that I get to see, I see his clear and obvious pain that could have been prevented,” he said.

RELATED: Video shows inmate's final hours

A third impact statement was read by prosecutors on behalf of Chantelle Glass, who was restrained in a chair while she was peppered spray by a corrections officer. She came into the jail for a misdemeanor warrant.

“The officers and nurse did nothing to protect my modesty or prevent male staff and inmates from viewing my exposed body as they wheeled me around in the chair. They made me sit for hours in a cold room tied in the chair, covered in pepper spray. I couldn't see. I couldn't breathe. I thought I was going to die. Even once they let me out of the chair, I was left in my street clothes and denied a shower for the entire time. I was there two days in all because I got hauled into the county jail for an old traffic ticket,” she said in a letter read by a prosecutor.

Glass said the incident was triggered when she asked for a phone call.

“I'm an average mom who wasn't doing anything wrong when I got arrested. I had no idea that our county ran a jail where the officers would torture people for asking to use the phone,” Glass said.

RELATED: Video shows jailers hit, pepper spray restrained woman

Judge Cosgrove
Before she handed down the sentence, Cosgrove pointed to Mills as an example to say that no one person is all good or all bad, but said one aspect of the case that struck her was the public service component of it. She told the court “it’s a privilege to serve the people of the state of Ohio and the citizens of Cuyahoga County.”

Watch a portion of her statements in the media player below:

Judge Patricia Cosgrove issues statement ahead of Ken Mills sentencing

She went further to re-highlight the horrific conditions that happened in the county jail. She spoke about the individuals held inside the jail and how they all have two things in common: 99% of them are awaiting trial and are innocent until proven guilty and secondly, they are human beings.

“Whether or not they are charged with the most grievous crimes — murder, rape, robbery or a low-level drug offense. They're still human beings, and they are entitled to be sentenced to a facility that has clean water, running water...You know, we are in the United States of America. We're not a third world country,” Cosgrove said.

And right before she told Mills he will spend the next nine months behind bars in the same jail he ran, she left some parting words for him.

“The damage to the reputation of Cuyahoga County and even the correction officers cannot be underestimated. What you have done is unthinkable. It's callous. It's indifference. I don't know how you can live with yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror,” she said.

Find previous and ongoing coverage of the trouble Cuyahoga County Jail here.

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