Schenectady County

Schenectady County jail officer fired over assault allegations; Detainee injuries needed ventilator, attorney says

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Categories: News, Schenectady County

SCHENECTADY – A county corrections officer and his supervisor have been fired after the guard allegedly beat an inmate at the county jail on Monday so severely it required the detainee to be placed on a ventilator.

Corrections Officer Eugene Sellie was fired for using “excessive force” against a detainee, while his supervisor, Corrections Sgt. Timothy Bruce, was terminated for “violating multiple departmental policies related to the event,” Schenectady County Sheriff Dominic Dagostino said Wednesday.

“It’s disgusting and disappointing,” Dagostino said. “I have zero tolerance for this type of behavior.”

Bruce is not accused of participating in the attack, which left the man hospitalized on Wednesday.

The detainee suffered five to six broken ribs, a broken clavicle, a collapsed lung and extensive bruising, according to his attorney, Kevin Luibrand.

“And he was on a ventilator for the first day because he couldn’t breathe without the aid of the ventilator,” Luibrand said. “He’s not getting out anytime soon.”

Dagostino said he couldn’t speak to the specific nature of the man’s injuries, citing medical privacy laws, but acknowledged they were “substantial.”

The sheriff has asked the city Police Department and county District Attorney’s Office to investigate the incident.

The alleged beating occurred in what’s known as a “changeover” room, where inmates are strip-searched and changed into jail clothing during processing.

There are no cameras for privacy reasons, Dagostino said.

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Luibrand declined to discuss the sequence of events that led to the alleged beating.

“There’s no license to do something like that to someone in jail or outside on the street, whether you wear a uniform or you don’t,” Luibrand said.

An emergency room photo revealed the inmate incurred lumps on his head and bruises on his ribs and collarbone, Dagostino said.

The Times Union first reported the beating on Wednesday.

The detainee was released following the beating, and authorities were tipped off when a probation officer pulled over after he saw him walking along the sidewalk at the corner of Veeder Avenue and Albany Street – not far from the jail – on Monday night and stopped.

“By observing him leaving our facility, he looked like he was in physical distress,” Dagostino said.

The detainee, whom both Dagostino and Luibrand declined to identify, alleged he had been physically assaulted within the past hour by a corrections officer while detained at the facility.

Both the internal and criminal investigations remained ongoing Thursday, Dagostino said.

It’s unclear what led to the inmate’s arrest, Dagostino said, but he believes the suspect was initially charged with criminal mischief and obstruction of breathing following an incident in Niskayuna. Sellie and Bruce are both white, as is the detainee, Dagostino said.

Luibrand declined to discuss the charges, contending they’re not relevant to the incident, but said his client was released on his own recognizance, an indication that the charges are not serious.

Dagostino said he hadn’t encountered any comparable incidents during his 12-year tenure with the office.

Yet the facility has previously come under federal scrutiny for inmate beatings.

Following allegations of guards beating detainees in 1994, the federal government launched a probe which ultimately resulted the arrest of five guards.

One pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and testified at a criminal trial. Three others and their supervisor were all acquitted after a 1996 trial.

The jail’s top brass — then-Sheriff William Barnes and then-Undersheriff Harry Buffardi — were never formally implicated.

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