FEDERAL COURT Deputies testify against Budd
An inmate and others recounted events that led to a beating.
CLEVELAND -- Tawhon Easterly said he wasn't keeping track of the time while officers beat him on the floor while he was an inmate at the Mahoning County Jail.
"All I kept thinking was praying to God, hoping they'd stop punching me," Easterly said Tuesday, testifying in the trial of Maj. Michael Budd of the county sheriff's department.
Budd faces four counts -- ordering the beating of Easterly; obstructing justice by filing false reports and false statements and withholding a key document from a federal grand jury; and personally beating two other inmates.
The trial is expected to last a little over a week, and will be followed by the trial of four deputies accused of carrying out orders to beat Easterly on Dec. 28, 2001.
Deputies who said they watched the beating or took part testified, and while details and perspectives differ, they and Easterly generally agree on the same basic events.
They told the court it all started with a brawl involving about 10 inmates in the jail gymnasium. During the fight, Easterly punched a female guard who tried to intervene. Another guard pepper-sprayed the inmates, while others came to help and locked the men in their cells.
According to testimony, deputies led Easterly back to the gym, where he was pushed to the floor and punched. They said he was then taken back to his cell.
Later, deputies returned to Easterly's cell to take him to "the Hole," a disciplinary cell used for 23-hour-a-day lockdown. On the way, witnesses said, deputies pushed Easterly to the floor, beat him a second time, removed his clothes and put him into the Hole naked.
What happened between and after those events is at the heart of the prosecution's case against Budd, who, witnesses agreed, was never at the scene.
Former jail supervisor Ronald Denson testified that Budd ordered Easterly's second beating when he heard Easterly had punched Deputy Christina Kachaylo during the fight in the gym.
Part of an agreement
Denson's testimony is part of an agreement in which he pleaded guilty to conspiracy for his role in the beating. He said he watched and didn't stop the first beating and then told other deputies of Budd's order to beat Easterly a second time.
Denson, then a corporal in the department, said Budd called him at his post after he returned from the gym.
"He was angry," Denson said. "He asked me what had happened, and I stated Deputy Kachaylo had been punched in the face. He said ... 'Was he taken care of?' I said he was ... He was put in [the discipline cell]. He said, 'He should have been put in the hospital.'"
'No head shots'
Denson said Budd told him to instruct the other shift supervisor, Sgt. William DeLuca, to "'get a couple guys. I want him taken care of.' And to take his clothes."
Denson said he relayed the message to DeLuca, who told deputies Ronald J. Kaschak and Raymond Hull: "You heard what he said, go take care of him."
Kaschak testified that he and Hull, along with deputies Mark Dixon and John Rivera, went to Easterly's cell "to put a beating on him." On the way, he said, the deputies agreed to "no head shots," which leave marks and bruises.
Kaschak said they led Easterly to a hallway where there were no cameras, where they "threw [Easterly] to the floor." He said Hull and Rivera punched Easterly's upper body, while he and Dixon each took a leg. Kaschak said he made four or five knee strikes.
Hull and Rivera then removed Easterly's clothing and "drug him into [the discipline cell] on his back," Kaschak testified.
Deputy Dave Thoreson was guarding the discipline cell when Easterly was transferred there. He testified that he found Easterly standing "completely naked" at his window.
Easterly told the court that he "felt humiliated" by the experience. Easterly is in prison, serving a sentence for involuntary manslaughter and for assaulting Kachaylo in the gym.
Easterly testified that he did not resist or threaten officers when they moved him in and out of his cell that day; Denson, Kaschak, Thoreson and Deputy Stan Kosinski Jr., who was Easterly's regular cell guard, all concurred.
No report filed
When prosecutor Kristy Parker asked Easterly why he did not file a complaint, he replied, "Because this type of stuff happens all the time, and don't nothing ever happen."
Kaschak said no report on the beating was filed for another eight or nine months, until, during a job interview, he told officers at the Austintown Police Department about the encounter. They told Kaschak they would write a letter to Sheriff Randall A. Wellington describing Kaschak's claim that an inmate had been assaulted, Kaschak testified Tuesday.
Kaschak said the letter made its way to Budd.
Asked Budd's reaction, Kaschak said, "He was irate."
Kaschak said Budd ordered him to write a statement about the beating and told him he would arrest him for assault once the statement was written. Kaschak said he refused to write it until a sergeant told him Budd could fire him for disobeying a direct order.
Kaschak said he then wrote a report, with no reference to Budd, that falsely stated Easterly had resisted officers.
"I went back into Maj. Budd's office and handed it to him," Kaschak said.
"He did a 360. He started being nice."
Others to face trial
Kaschak, like Denson, testified under a government agreement after pleading guilty last April to participating in the beating. He has been fired from the sheriff's department.
Hull, Rivera, Dixon and Deputy Ryan Strange are scheduled for trial next week.
In cross-examinations, defense attorney Martin E. Yavorcik repeatedly asked witnesses to talk about the levels of force used on Easterly and by law enforcement officers in general.
Kosinski said force can range from verbal commands to death, according to training standards used in Ohio.
Yavorcik later asked Kaschak whether they had, in fact, put Easterly in the hospital.
"No," Kaschak replied.