A former Mecklenburg County jail inmate has sued the sheriff and his staff, saying he was harassed by jailers and savagely beaten by another inmate because he is gay.
In a complaint filed Tuesday, Arthur Blake says he repeatedly alerted deputies that he had been threatened by a fellow inmate. He claims he was left unprotected before being attacked on Aug. 1, 2014, by inmate Timothy Belcher.
Because he felt unsafe, the complaint alleges, Blake pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and other pending charges to speed up his transfer out of the jail. “Had Mr. Blake been properly protected,” he would not have agreed to the plea, the lawsuit says. He has since been released.
“The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office failed to take very basic steps to adequately protect one of its inmates … and the result was that Mr. Blake suffered a brutal assault,” Blake’s attorney, Jake Sussman of Charlotte, said Wednesday. “Prior to this assault, Mr. Blake had been harassed and demeaned by certain employees of the Sheriff’s Office because Mr. Blake is gay. This is unacceptable, especially from public employees whose job is to serve and protect.”
The complaint, which calls for a jury trial in Mecklenburg County Superior Court, accuses Carmichael and his staff of due process violations, negligence and breach of official duties.
Carmichael’s attorney, Marilyn Porter, said Blake’s accusations lack merit. “We dispute the charges and intend to vigorously defend the lawsuit,” she said in an email.
Throughout his 2014 incarceration, Sussman says, jailers mocked his client by calling him “Miss Blake.”
According to the complaint, Belcher, who has multiple arrests for assaults and other acts of violence, regularly expressed his hatred for gay people and threatened to harm Blake.
“If you look me in the eyes I am going to f*** you up,” Belcher told Blake while the two were in a food line, the complaint says.
According to the lawsuit, Blake began repeatedly warning jailers of Belcher’s threats in July 2014 but that no steps were taken to protect him.
His last plea for help came on Aug. 1, 2014, at around 10:15 a.m. Two hours later, the attack occurred – with Belcher banging Blake’s head on the floor and gouging his eyes, causing bleeding, scratches and swelling, the suit says.
The jail staff responded by putting Blake in solitary confinement for four days, during which his existing anxiety and depression worsened, the suit says.
Jail records indicate that Belcher was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and communicating threats the same month as the attack. He is no longer in custody.