Jail video reveals alleged assault

Inmate Ryan Cook, allegedly being assaulted by corrections officer Kevin Abrams, who later pleaded guilty to official misconduct. Abrams was terminated. (Photo provided from surveillance video)

FULTONVILLE — An Albany attorney recently filed an amended complaint in federal court that includes 2015 photos of his inmate client allegedly being assaulted by Montgomery County Correctional Facility staff.

Attorney Elmer R. Keach III filed the original lawsuit in July on behalf of Ryan Cook in U.S. District Court Northern District of New York.

Court papers say “unjustified force” was used against Cook, a Montgomery County resident.

Keach claims his client’s Constitutional rights were violated for “excessive use of force,” assault and battery, negligent supervision, “intentional/negligent infliction of emotional distress,” and for administrative “failure to train and supervise employees.”

The amended complaint includes photographic evidence and was filed Nov. 17 against Montgomery County, Sheriff Michael Amato; jail administrator Michael Franko; former corrections officers Kevin Abrams and Shawn Culver; corrections officers Richard Pelosi, Chad Krestler, James Bearcroft, Michael Bellamy and defendants listed as “John Does 1-4.”

Abrams pleaded guilty to official misconduct on March 25 and Pelosi pleaded guilty on April 19 to disorderly conduct in Glen Town Court. Abrams was fined $1,000 with a $205 surcharge and Pelosi was fined $250 with a $125 surcharge. Abrams was terminated from his position.

Four other officers were disciplined without charges being filed.

No monetary amount is listed in the filing requesting a federal civil trial by jury, but a November 2015 notice of claim filing in Montgomery County stated that Cook is seeking $10 million.

The filing states that no punitive damages are being sought from Montgomery County, Amato or Franko.

“There is a culture of misconduct and brutality at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department that stems from both complacency coupled with a lack of accountability by the Montgomery County sheriff, who is clearly a failed leader deserving of contempt,” Keach said Thursday.

Keach said issues like these involve a “mindset” at the sheriff’s office. With Cook, the attorney alleged Abrams was “doing these things” in front of several corrections staff and “nothing happened.”

“I am the one who let people know,” Keach said.

The attorney said Montgomery County jail officers get treated with “kid gloves.” He alleged the only time Amato does anything is when confronted with video evidence and he is “being caught.”

Amato on Thursday has no comment on the amended lawsuit.

Four photographs contained in the complaint show Abrams allegedly putting his hands on Cook. The complaint alleges Abrams showed “cruel and sadistic actions” toward Cook at 6:57 p.m. and 7:52 p.m. on Oct. 9, 2015.

“These are about four examples of the wanton cruelty inflicted on Mr. Cook by Corrections Officer Abrams — cruelty that was routinely inflicted in the presence of other Montgomery County corrections officers,” the lawsuit said.

The amended complaint states: “For several months during his detention at the Montgomery County Jail, Mr. Cook was subjected to severe physical and psychological abuse by several corrections officers. Specifically, from July 2015 to October 2015, Mr. Cook was assaulted on more than 20 occasions. The main perpetrator of these assaults was Corrections Officer Kevin Abrams. Defendant Abrams repeatedly subjected Mr. Cook to unjustified and excessive uses of force including, but not limited to, punches, slaps, kicks, chokes, and tasers.”

The lawsuit states: “During these various assaults, other corrections officers assisted defendant Abrams by also using … excessive and unjustified force against Mr. Cook, including defendants Krestler, Culver, Bearcroft, Bellamy, Pelosi, and John Does 1-4. After these assaults, the defendants threatened Mr. Cook not to say anything or they would retaliate against him with force, and/or disciplinary charges.”

“On Oct. 9 and 10, 2015, Mr. Cook was subjected to a series of especially violent assaults,” the suit says. “On one occasion, Officer Abrams choked Mr. Cook so hard that it caused bruises on his neck.”

Court papers added: “Despite having videographic proof of the assaults, Sheriff Amato and Jail Administrator Franko declined to release the names of any of the defendants involved in the assault of the plaintiff. Sheriff Amato routinely releases information to the public regarding the arrests of Montgomery County citizens, including those arrested for minor crimes. His attempt to conceal this information to the public is indicative of hypocrisy, and his toleration of such conduct. In fact, and upon information and belief, two inmates were recently subjected to similar physical assaults by other corrections officers at the Montgomery County Jail, which resulted in other corrections officers being criminally prosecuted.”

“There has been similar silence on the part of Sheriff Amato and Jail Administrator Franko about these assaults,” the lawsuit said. “These subsequent assaults, and the concealment about such conduct on the part of defendants Amato and Franko, are post-incident evidence of a practice and custom of the physical abuse of inmates at the Montgomery County Jail.  The present assault is part of pattern of misconduct at the Montgomery County Jail for which Sheriff Amato and Jail Administrator Franco are responsible.”

Abrams also was listed as a codefendant in a federal claim brought by Keach gainst the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the jail. That case involved plaintiff Martha McConville — whose son, Kenneth McConville, died at the jail in 2014 — filing a federal lawsuit in September 2015 against the county and several officers.

The initial filing stated that Kenneth McConville was taken into custody in Fort Plain, and at some point during the arrest, swallowed several Oxycodone pills.

The filing also stated McConville was intoxicated at the time, and had a 0.15 percent blood-alcohol content during the autopsy, given between six and eight hours after his detainment.

The Sept. 2015 filing stated that Kenneth McConville was not given proper medical treatment and alleges he died as a


By Chad Fleck

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