Denver City Council gives preliminary approval to $3.25M settlement with former inmate Jamal Hunter

New videos reveal more troublesome conduct at jail

DENVER - Denver's City Council voted Monday to give preliminary approval to a $3.25M settlement with former inmate Jamal Hunter.

7NEWS Reporter Marc Stewart was in the chamber for the vote. He says only Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz voted against the deal and Councilwoman Deborah Ortega abstained. One other member was not in attendance.

The judge overseeing the lawsuit approved the record settlement deal last week. Before being finalized, City Council is required to take one final vote next week.

The lawsuit, brought on by Jamal Hunter, alleged widespread brutality and corruption in the Denver jail and witness intimidation by police.

Hunter accused Deputy Gaynel Rumer of encouraging the attack in 2011 where inmates in an eight-man cell allegedly beat Hunter unconscious and burned his thighs and genitals with cups of scalding water.

The lawsuit alleged Rumer ignored Hunter's screams and even turned off the lights in the cell to give the attackers cover. Along with the burns, Hunter suffered fractures to his face.

Thirteen days after Hunter returned to jail from the hospital, documents allege another deputy, Edward Keller, got fed up with Hunter complaining about his pain and inadequate medical care.

The records say Hunter called Keller a racist and then a surveillance video showed Keller choking Hunter as he shoved the injured inmate down onto a cell bunk. Three other deputies rushed in to help pin Hunter to the floor as a fifth deputy shocked the fallen inmate twice with a Taser stun gun.

Hunter said he did not resist or attack the deputies. (See the video: http://ch7ne.ws/1mSzKQy)

Hunter wrote in a complaint that Keller "lost control of himself and attack [sic] me, choking, punching and body slamming me without cause."

Both Rumer and Keller denied any wrongdoing.

The lawsuit described an out-of-control jail pod, where a deputy is accused of getting drunk and using porn, directing beatings of inmates, and selling pot and porn to inmates.

The settlement is not an admission of liability, Denver City Attorney Scott Martinez said.

-- Lawsuit led to several investigations, changes --

Revelations in the abuse case led directly to the resignation last week of Denver Sheriff Gary Wilson and an investigation by independent monitor Nick Mitchell revealing scores of inmate grievances that hadn't been properly investigated.

The sheriff's office gave Rumer a 40-day suspension for introducing and distributing pornography and marijuana in the jail pod, complicity in inmates "unlawfully" brewing homemade "hooch" in their cell and "use of inmates to implement informal physical discipline," according to a Denver Police Internal Affairs Bureau investigative report.

In addition, allegations of litigation misconduct were made against Assistant City Attorney Stuart Shapiro, who originally handled the matter. Shapiro has been placed on investigatory leave, and City Attorney Scott Martinez has ordered a full and complete review of Shapiro's conduct in this case as well as policies and procedures at the Denver City Attorney's Office.

"Jamal Hunter feels that his civil rights have been vindicated," said his attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai. "He is proud to be an instrument of change."

-- New videos of inmate abuse --

The settlement comes as two new videos of alleged inmate beatings reveal more troublesome conduct inside the Denver jail.

In a Dec. 26, 2012 incident, Deputy Steven Valerio is seen on video punching an inmate, knocking him to the ground and then lifting him by his handcuffs.

An internal affairs investigation determined that Valerio violated the department's use of force policy and lied about the incident during the investigation. He was fired April 17 and is appealing his termination.

In a Sept. 26, 2013 incident, Sgt. Ned St. Germain is accused of ordering two deputies to deploy their stun guns against an inmate who was sitting on his bunk while on suicide watch.

While the inmate had been hitting his head against a wall and ignored a deputy’s order to stop, investigators found the man did not display a physical threat to deputies.

St. Germain was suspended without pay for 10 days on April 14 for violating the department's use of force policy. He is appealing the punishment.

"It's very upsetting this is happening," said councilwoman Mary Beth Susman. "I know the city is very interested in getting a handle on this to see what we can do."

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