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Deputy's actions in jail altercation 'questionable and inconsistent'

Karlee Steffanni • Aug 31, 2017 at 7:00 PM

A prosecutor has released details about a jail altercation involving two inmates and a former Huron County sheriff’s deputy.

No charges are being filed against former Deputy Robert Lombardo in connection with the July 24 incident at the Huron County Jail. Lombardo, of Willard, resigned Aug. 9.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation initially investigated the altercation. The case then subsequently was referred to Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter for review.

Baxter has released the following report regarding his decision on the matter: 

This incident began when two inmates, Peterson and Lewis, engaged in a violent altercation which lasted about 30 seconds before correction officers (hereinafter “COs”) entered the housing unit and stopped the fight. The video of the fight shows Peterson and Lewis throwing multiple punches and kicks at one another. Some of the punches were thrown to the head and neck areas of the inmates. At one point, the inmates are seen wrestling on the floor and trying to grab one another around the neck and head area. In viewing the video of the fight, it is reasonable to expect that both inmates sustained some degree of physical harm to the neck and head area. 

After breaking up the fight, both inmates were handcuffed and escorted to “medical” as both were noted to have suffered injuries. Deputy Lombardo is one of the COs who helped break up the fight and assist in escorting inmate Lewis to “medical.” On the way to “medical,” inmate Lewis is seen making remarks to the COs. One of the COs interviewed stated that inmate Lewis was taunting and perhaps making threats to the officers. At this time, Deputy Lombardo interrupts the escort and grabs inmate Lewis by the neck forcing him against the wall for approximately seven (7) seconds. 

In his subsequent interview as part of this investigation, inmate Lewis claimed that all the physical injuries he sustained (primarily minor bruises and abrasions) were a result of the actions of Deputy Lombardo. In fact, he claims that no injuries whatsoever were caused during the fight with inmate Peterson. However, as previously noted, in reviewing the video of the fight, one would expect that some physical harm would have been suffered by inmate Lewis during the melee. Further, other COs interviewed, who assisted in stopping the fight, stated that they saw injuries to Lewis immediately after the fight and as a result he was being escorted for medical evaluation. 

The purpose of my review is to determine whether or not Deputy Lombardo’s actions in the hallway should result in criminal charges, i.e. assault. 

The offense of assault occurs when there is a violation of ORC 2903.13 (A) which provides that: “No person shall knowingly cause or attempt to cause physical harm to another...”

In this matter, it would be difficult to say or prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the injuries to inmate Lewis were a proximate result of Deputy Lombardo’s actions in the hallway. Inmate Lewis’ uncorroborated statement as to the cause of his injuries is simply not credible given the video evidence and witness accounts as to when and how the injuries were sustained. Further, there is no evidence that Deputy Lombardo “knowingly attempted” to cause physical harm to inmate Lewis as opposed to restraining him. 

Therefore, while Deputy Lombardo’s actions may be questionable and inconsistent with departmental policy and protocol, there is insufficient basis to institute a criminal action in this case. 

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