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Public Notices

April 17, 2014

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In A Closed Session, County Commission Hears Of Jail Suits

Originally published: 2013-01-24 10:39:29
Last modified: 2013-01-24 10:44:51



In addition to dealing with scheduled agenda items, the Greene County Commission met with County Attorney Roger Woolsey in closed session for 45 minutes after Tuesday night's County Commission meeting.

Sources said the meeting was to hear information about a new federal lawsuit relating to conditions at the Greene County Detention Center.

Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) Inspector Robert Kane cautioned the commission last year that letting the detention center become decertified would increase the county government's legal liability.

TCI bases the granting of jail certification on a department's maintaining what the TCI considers minimal standards for humane treatment, according to Kane.

By not meeting these minimal standards, Kane told the commission, the county's legal liability could skyrocket.

Since then, lawsuits have been filed against the county concerning incidents allegedly related to the overcrowded and aging facility.

Plaintiffs argue that their constitutional rights are not being met inside the jail.


The latest lawsuit on record was filed earlier this month by Joshua Johnson against both County Sheriff Steve Burns and Greene County itself.

Johnson's attorneys are both of Knoxville -- Robert R. Kurtz, of Stanley & Kurtz, PLLC, and Arthur F. Knight, III, of Taylor, Fleishman, & Knight.

The complaint requests the federal court to consider the matter as a class action lawsuit under which inmates, the complaint alleges, have been submitted to "cruel and unusual punishment" and deprived of their "inalienable rights as human beings."

The complaint calls for compensatory and punitive damages to be awarded to the plaintiff.

According to the complaint, Johnson has been incarcerated at the jail since Oct. 2, 2012.

Greeneville Sun records indicate that a Joshua Johnson, 25, of 335 Quillen Shell Road, was charged with theft over $1,000 in connection with an Oct. 1, 2012 break-in at an apartment along the East Andrew Johnson Highway.


The complaint also alleges that, on Oct. 8, Johnson was attacked in his cell by one or more fellow inmates resulting in "multiple bone fractures in his head and face, as well as severe contusions to the rest of his body."

A "lengthy period of time" reportedly lapsed before Johnson was able to get the attention of jail staff, after which he was transported to Laughlin Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Johnson "has suffered numbness in his face and head, lost teeth, continues to experience blurry vision and loss of vision, headaches and other neurological issues," according to the complaint.

Many members of the County Commission left prior to the end of the closed session.

In keeping with the Tennessee Open Meetings Law, the commission did not take any official action.

The Open Meetings Law allows members of a governmental body to meet with their attorney in closed session to be briefed about a pending legal matter.

For more information and stories, see The Greeneville Sun.

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