Judge approves $3.3M Denver jail-abuse settlement; payout considered largest in city history

DENVER - A federal judge has accepted a $3.3 million settlement offer from the city of Denver to a former inmate who claims a deputy encouraged other inmates to beat him.

Court documents filed Friday show U.S. District Judge John Kane has approved the settlement in Jamal Hunter's civil case, which still requires City Council's acceptance. Thursday, the same judge sent attorneys away after an hour-long meeting, saying the settlement required different language.

The attorneys returned to Kane Friday with new paperwork he accepted their second attempt

Kane's order says only that he is satisfied that the revised agreement is an "appropriate resolution" of the suit.

The $3.3 million payout is considered the largest in Denver history to settle a civil rights case.

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.

Hunter accused Deputy Gaynel Rumer of encouraging a brutal 2011 attack where inmates in an eight-man cell 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.

In the video, Hunter doesn't resist or attack the deputies.

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

City attorneys feared, if Hunter's lawsuit went to trial, testimony by inmates would "paint an egregious picture" of what was happening in the Denver jail, according to an email from Assistant City Attorney Stuart Shapiro to a Denver police internal affairs sergeant that was released in court documents.

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 Monday 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.

Both Rumer and Keller deny any wrongdoing.

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