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After epidemic of dead Cuyahoga County Jail inmates Armond Budish names new Black sheriff, a former police chief in University Hts where city officials, police and judges helped JPMorgan Chase Bank steal Black people's homes via illegal foreclosures

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Pictured are newly sworn in interim Cuyahoga County Sheriff Steven Hammett and Democratic Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish

Clevelandurbannews.com and Kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com

By Kathy Wray Coleman, associate publisher, editor-in-chief, investigative reporter

CLEVELAND, Ohio-Following the resignation last month of interim Sheriff Christopher Paul Viland after the death, also last month, of yet another Black inmate in the troubled Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland, Ohio where more than 12 inmates have died since 2018, outgoing Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish on Monday swore in the county's second Black sheriff, interim Sheriff Steven Hammett.

Former sheriff Cliff Pinkney was the county's first Black sheriff. He resigned three years ago, also amid controversy, and later testified during the trial of former jail director Ken Mills, who was convicted in October 2021 of four misdemeanor counts of falsification and dereliction of duties and sentenced to nine months behind bars, that he had no power as an appointed sheriff under the purview and authority of Budish, whom he said subordinated him to White men like Mills.


“Captain Hammett is a long-time law enforcement professional with a proven track record of leadership in our community,” Budish said in a  statement emailed before he swore in Hammett as sheriff on Monday. “I am confident in his ability to lead the sheriff’s department as our law enforcement staff continue to protect and serve the residents of Cuyahoga County.”


Hammett joined the sheriff’s department in September of 2021, three years after he was police chief under then University Heights Mayor Susan Infeld, who lost reelection in 2017 to current mayor Michael Dylan, a Democrat like Infeld who brought in his own police chief when he assumed office. Hammett has over 30 years of law enforcement experience and has also served as a deputy chief  for Shaker Heights. When he was police chief under Infeld in University Heights, a middle class Cleveland suburb, Blacks complained that the then University Heights mayor and police allegedly harassed them to help JPMorgan Chase Bank and county officials and judges illegally steal their homes via illegal foreclosures. And if they complained too much some were jailed and maliciously prosecuted, public records reveal, and under the helm of county prosecutor Mike O'Malley, also a Democrat, and before him, allegedly by former county prosecutor Tim McGinty, also a former common pleas judge whom O'Malley ousted to win the county prosecutor's seat in 2016.


In short, county Democrats, led by the county Democratic party, with the Cleveland Plain Dealer Newspaper McGintty's strongest ally at the time, had tired of McGinty and wanted him out, and O'Malley, a former Parma safety director  who ran an effective campaign under campaign manager Ryan Miday, was their replacement. In did not help that McGinty had fallen into disrepute with the Black community and community activists after he shielded largely White Cleveland cops from indictments who gunned down Black people from prosecution in celebrated cases such as the Cleveland police shooting deaths of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, whom 13 non-Black Cleveland police officers erroneously gunned down shooting 137 bullets.


Budish said Monday that he has confidence in Hammett as the county's new interim sheriff.


And confidence is sorely needed in the Budish administration The county executive, a former speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and Beachwood councilman who was first elected in 2014, did not seek another four-year term this year after scandal after scandal has rocked his last term in office.


Democrat Chris Roynane and Republican Lee Weingart will battle it out in November for Budish' powerful spot in county government, a 29 percent Black county and the second largest of Ohio's 88 counties,one that is governed by a county executive and an 11-member county council, a relatively new form of county governance approved by county voters that scrapped three county commissioners and all but the elected county offices of the county prosecutor and judges.


The winner, with Weigart in an uphill battle to outdo Ronayne in the heavily Democratic county once rocked by a public corruption probe that brought convictions and long prison terms for former county commissioner Jimmy Dimora and former county auditor the late Frank Russo, will inherit the mess Budish will leave behind. In 2018 U.S. Marshals issued a report that deemed the gross mistreatment of the majority Black inmates inhumane and unconstitutional and problems have simply mounted since then.


Former Sheriff Viland was confirmed as sheriff in March of 2021 by county council following a recommendation from Budish, who announced in late April that Viland would step down. Current county jail warden Michelle Henry, the jail's first female warden, however, remains on the job, at least for now.


Both Viland and Henry are White.


A former police inspector general for Cleveland’s Department of Public Safety and former Solon police officer, Viland was surprised at the shakeup, sources said, with Budish' office  issuing a statement saying Viland, a law enforcement veteran, would stay on with the sheriff's department through the transition process as to his replacement. The shakeup and the announcement on Monday of Hammett as the county's new sheriff comes following the death last month of yet  another  inmate


According to a county spokesperson, Shondo Moffitt, who was Black, collapsed at the jail at around 12:30 p.m. on Mon,  April 11. He had been in the facility since Feb 15 for failure to appear for a Feb 25 hearing. He was taken to MetroHealth Medical Center where he was later declared dead.

The attorney for the  39-year-old man had  filed a motion with a judge requesting that his client be released to continue his medical treatment.


While the dead inmate was Black, both the sheriff and the county jail warden are White. The county is roughly 29 percent Black and a disproportionate number of the inmates are Black, mainly Black men. Moffitt had two open felony cases in Cuyahoga County, one from a year ago for illegal possession of a firearm where he skipped his sentencing in that trial, and  another, a felony theft case.


In early January the family of a man who authorities say was beaten to death by his cellmate in 2020 received $1.1 million to settle a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit against the county, and others. The man, Shone Trawick, a 48-year-old father of six, was serving a six months sentence for assault


Twenty-eight-year-old Devauntae Rayshon Daye, who was a Black transgender woman, is also among the fallen, and died in the jail in August of 2020 She was found unresponsive in her jail cell, authorities said, and was later pronounced dead. She was facing charges of felonious assault and aggravated robbery for allegedly robbing a man and hitting him with a brick.


This latest county jail inmate death comes as county officials embark upon plans to build a 1904-inmate capacity jail that has an inmate expansion unit to house more Black people, sources said, a multi million dollar project funded primarily by taxpayers. Cuyahoga County is the second largest of 88 counties statewide, and it is a Democratic stronghold.


The  damning report released in November of 2018 by U.S. Marshals on county jail conditions generated local and national news, a dreadful look at how inmates are mistreated such as withholding food for punishment, jailing juveniles with adults, rat and roach infested jail facilities, and a paramilitary jail corrections officers unit dubbed "The Men in Black" who intimidate and harass inmates. The report also found profound mistreatment of female inmates, and that pregnant women were being jailed on floor mats and denied adequate healthcare.


Several lawsuits remain pending regarding the county's now infamous jail and County Executive  Budish ' decision not to run for reelection this year, a decision that follows what began as a raid of his offices in downtown Cleveland after the series of jail deaths that peaked in 2018.  Another FBI raid would follow, and so would indictments, though not of Budish, 68 and a lawyer.  There have in fact been indictments and convictions of at least nine jail guards, the former jail director, and former  jail warden Eric Ivey, who is Black.


Ivey took a misdemeanor plea deal with no jail time before Common Pleas Judge Nancy Fuerst with an agreement that he  act as a snitch. In the midst of it all, then sheriff Cliff Pinkney, the county's first Black sheriff  whom Budish recommended, resigned in May of 2019.


Hired in 2015 after Budish took office for a first term,  Pinkney was succeeded by Gregory Croucher , who resigned in  April of 2021 amid controversy, and  Croucher, who is White, was succeeded by Viland last year, Viland hardly lasting a year himself when Budish, last month , ousted him from his sheriff duties. Now interim sheriff Steven Hammett, again, the county's second Black sheriff, will get a chance at either passing or failing amid still turmoil and other the watchful eye of the federal government, among other authorities.


The FBI and other authorities have been swarming the jail since 2018 after inmates began popping up dead. The Cleveland jail merged with the county  jail per a regionalism plan adopted by county and city officials in 2017, which created nothing but more problems.

Activists say the jail remains a problem and that they are also concerned with an array of other issues, including excessive bail, malicious prosecutions, racism, grand jury tampering, indictment fixing, denial of indigent counsel and speedy trial rights to Black defendants, and excessive sentences. Data also show that White inmates were getting favorable treatment and that Black inmates were more harshly disciplined.

Cleveland community activists picketed in front of the Cuyahoga County Justice Center in 2018 over judicial and prosecutorial malfeasance, police misconduct, and the overcrowding of the county jail, a continuation of activist rallies that began in 2016. Hastened by the coronavirus outbreak, activists had been picketing regularly at the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland over jail conditions, in front of Budish' gated home in affluent Beachwood, where they called for his resignation, and at county administrative headquarters before county council meetings.

By Kathy Wray Coleman, associate publisher, editor. Coleman is a seasoned Black Cleveland journalist who trained at the Call and Post Newspaper for 17 years and an experienced investigative and political reporter. She is the most read independent journalist in Ohio per Alexa.com

Clevelandurbannews.com and Kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com, the most read Black digital newspaper and Black blog in Ohio and in the Midwest. Tel: (216) 659-0473. Email: editor@clevelandurbannews.com. We interviewed former president Barack Obama one-on-one when he was campaigning for president. As to the Obama interview, CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT CLEVELAND URBAN NEWS.COM, OHIO'S LEADER IN BLACK DIGITAL NEWS.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 May 2022 20:07

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The annual11th Congressional District Caucus Parade is Monday, September 2

11th Congressional District Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge, a Warrensville Heights Democrat who also chairs the Congressional Black Caucus of Blacks in Congress. waives to the crowd last year at the annual 11th Congressional District Caucus Parade.  This year's parade kicks off on Monday, September 2 on Cleveland's east side at 10:00 am from E. 149th Street and Kinsman Road and ends at Luke Easter Park where the picnic will begin. The event will be replete with political speeches and entertainment from various sources, including local musicians and bands. The well-attended caucus parade was initiated by Democrat Louis Stokes, the retired congressman before Fudge, and the tradition was furthered by the late Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Fudges' predecessor. Stokes was the first Black congressperson from Ohio and Tubbs Jones was the first Black congresswoman from Ohio