An inmate beaten by other inmates and at least one guard describes systemic corruption at a Denver jail — allegations a federal judge asks U.S. Attorneys to investigate.
Recently released surveillance footage and documents from the Denver County Jail support one inmate’s claims that widespread brutality, corruption and witness intimidation are occurring inside the walls of the jail — among the guards.
Video footage from the Denver County Jail, which was released publicly for the first time on Thursday, shows inmate Jamal Hunter, who is blowing the whistle on corruption inside the facility, pushed onto the bed of his cell on July 31, 2011 by Deputy Edward Keller, who has his hands around Hunter’s neck and appears to be strangling him.
Three other deputies rush into the cell, but instead of helping Hunter, who doesn’t appear to be resiting or physically threatening any of the deputies, they hold him down while Keller continues to strangle him. A fifth deputy, Sgt. Anthony Mazzei, enters the cell and shocks Hunter twice with a stun gun.
A sheriff’s review of the incident found “this incident involved a demonstrable, serious risk to the inmate,” yet Keller only received a 30-day suspension for his use of excessive force against Hunter.
Hunter has since filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Denver, specifically naming Keller and one other deputy in his suit. In the suit, Hunter describes how the deputies who manage the Denver jail often drank to excess while on the job, looked at pornographic images, ordered inmates they didn’t like to be beaten, sold marijuana and pornography to inmates, and allowed some inmates to make their own alcohol, or “hooch.”
In addition to Keller, the other deputy Hunter named in the lawsuit is Deputy Gaynel Rumer, who Hunter claims encouraged the seven inmates he was sharing a cell with to beat him until he was unconscious and burn his thighs and genitals with scalding water.
According to the lawsuit, Hunter alleges that Rumer intentionally ignored his calls for help and turned the lights off in the cell to limit what the surveillance cameras would be able to capture. After that incident, Hunter was taken to the hospital, where he received treatment for the burns on his legs and genitals, as well as facial fractures.
Hunter alleges that when he returned to the jail after his stay in the hospital, Keller was annoyed by the inmate’s complaints about the pain he was suffering and the inadequate medical care provided by the jail. Hunter allegedly spat at Keller and called the deputy a racist, which is when Keller reportedly burst through the cell door and began to choke Hunter.
Keller “lost control of himself and attack [sic] me, choking, punching and body slamming me without cause.”
U.S. District Judge John Kane ordered the documents and video be released, much to the dismay of city officials. Kane has also asked for federal prosecutors to investigate the “patterns and practices” of the police and sheriff’s departments, especially since the Denver District Attorney’s Office has declined to prosecute two cases related to corruption at the facility.
Part of the reason Kane believed so strongly in releasing the information to the public, is because the federal judge hopes an investigation into the jail will occur, especially since other inmates have also come forward with allegations of rampant corruption and abuse at the facility.
According to an affidavit by inmate Amos Page, the deputy had an apparent dislike for Hunter — a man who Rumer told other inmates was an informant — and Rumer would work with a select few inmates to sell pornography, drugs and alcohol, so long as he would get a percentage of the profits.
He also allegedly allowed inmates to beat other inmates who were “snitches” or sex offenders.
“Rumer would let me control the pod,” Page wrote in the affidavit. “Rumer would allow me to give other inmates violations such as ‘50 punches to the chin’ or ‘straight up two minutes’ (two minutes with four homies).”
“I was his muscle,” Page explained.
Rumer has denied the allegations against him and has been suspended for 40 days from his job. He is currently at the center of a criminal investigation, as the U.S. Attorney’s Office has been asked to investigate the Denver Police Department and the Denver Sheriff’s Department to determine whether Hunter’s allegations are true and if other inmates were intimidated by Denver police detectives so they wouldn’t testify on behalf of Hunter.
The Denver Police Department has not commented on the issue, saying the department cannot comment on pending litigation.