published Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Judge lowers bond for trouble inmate

A man who was brought to jail on probation violation charges in February has racked up at least seven assaults involving deputies inside the jail.

On Tuesday, his bond was lowered somewhat, from more than $200,000 to less than $90,000.

During the bond hearing, King Allah James, 22, testified that he was the victim of abuse in the Hamilton County Jail and that many of the charges against him were false.

But three deputies testified that, on multiple occasions James has bit, hit, spit on and struggled with officers in the court, jail and at Erlanger hospital.

James' mother, Tracy Robinson, told local media that her son was intimidated and provoked by corrections officers while in the jail. She said she has filed complaints with the sheriff's office, which manages the jail.

Robinson had hoped the $218,000 total bond for her son's seven charges would be reduced to an affordable amount. Criminal Court Judge Don Poole lowered the total to less than $90,000, which Robinson said still isn't manageable and doubted she could pay the bond to have James released.

James was originally arrested for drug possession and domestic assault charges, then placed on probation. He violated probation by failing to appear for court dates, according to court records.

At the time of his arrest, James was finishing his GED and attending classes at Chattanooga State Community College, he and his mother testified.

Deputy Keith Ruefenacht testified that, while transporting prisoners after a court hearing earlier this year he heard a "commotion" and saw James struggling with another officer then biting the officer's finger. The officer struck James to make him release his bite, Ruefenacht said.

James then spit on Ruefenacht from his cell three times following the biting incident, the deputy testified.

Deputy Wesley Chambers testified that James spit at him through an opening in his cell door after Chambers removed a picture the inmate had used to block the window, a violation of jail policy.

In a separate incident, Chambers said James refused to leave the Erlanger emergency department while being seen in custody, so Chambers and another officer walked him out. During the walk, Chambers said James head-butted the other officer.

Deputy David Donahue testified that he had escorted James to a cell and, once in the cell, James wrestled with him, spit on him and attempted to choke him.

During another incident, James threatened suicide while in his cell and while officers removed his items and clothing the inmate spit in his face, Donahue said.

Robinson admitted her son suffers from bipolar disorder and acts out when not on his medication. But she said she suspected officers and inmates had provoked her son during the described incidents.

Poole set a Sept. 5 hearing date to determine pre-trial matters for James.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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