Video evidence and medical records indicate that a Dane County Jail inmate’s hip was fractured and dislocated in an altercation with Sheriff’s Deputies, and he was left in a suicide watch cell for at least 15 hours before being taken to a hospital.
Jimmie Lee Joshua, 29, required surgery to place a plate and eight screws in his hip, followed by an eight-day hospital stay. He has filed a $2.5 million civil rights lawsuit in federal court.
After Madison365 sought comment from the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, the office retained an attorney, who said the allegations were inaccurate. He couldn’t name any specific inaccuracies as he had not viewed the video evidence or read the complaint detailed in the lawsuit.
Joshua was arrested in August on a number of battery, disorderly conduct and fraud charges and is being held on a probation revocation as he awaits trial. He has pleaded not guilty.
Joshua described the December 23 incident in an exclusive interview with Madison365.
He said he was in an isolated unit of the jail on the seventh floor of the Public Safety Building because he had previously tested positive for COVID-19. He said that in the early evening of December 23, he was on his “hour out” — a one-hour period during which he was allowed out of his cell. He was awaiting a video call on the tablet computer the jail uses to allow inmates to visit or message loved ones. He acknowledged that he was allowed more than an hour, but when a deputy told him it was time to lock down, he asked why, as he said other inmates had been allowed more than an hour. He said the deputy took a disrespectful tone.
“I said, ‘Why do I need to lock down? I’m on my hour out, I’m waiting for my visit. Everybody else got extra hours out.’ And he was like, ‘Well, you need to go (expletive) lock down now.’ And I said, ‘You know what? I’m not locking down, not the way that you’re talking to me. You’re talking to me recklessly and you cussing me out for no reason.’ … It was disrespectful and I told him that.”
Surveillance video obtained by Madison365 shows a verbal exchange between Joshua and the deputy lasting approximately two minutes. The video does not include sound, so it’s not possible to verify what was said. Toward the end of the exchange, the deputy approached Joshua, who began moving backward and turning toward his cell.
“And he proceeded to walk towards me I put my hands in the air and I backed up towards my cell, and so I sidestepped him and tried to run in my cell to close my door because I felt threatened by him like that,” Joshua said. “I felt like he was going to mace me, I thought he was going to tase me, I feel threatened … The way he was talking to me, I felt like, ‘There’s nothing I can do about this situation, let me just back up, put my hands in the air and let him know that I’m not a threat and let me just go in my cell.’ And that’s what I did until he ran towards me and grabbed me. … When he told me to go lockdown, I literally put my hands in the air and backed up towards my cell to go lockdown. I didn’t threaten him, I didn’t run up on him, I didn’t hit him, I didn’t swing on him.”
Surveillance video largely corroborates Joshua’s depiction of the exchange. It shows Joshua moving toward his cell, though with his hands at his sides, and the deputy grasping him by the arm before both entered the cell.
Two more deputies then came to assist, and the three deputies forcibly detained and removed Joshua from the cell. One grasped Joshua by the left leg and lifted it, forcing him to the ground, where he landed on his right side with his arms behind his back and the weight of two deputies on top of him.
Madison365 is aware of the names of the deputies, but is not naming them at this time, as the Sheriff’s Office has declined to confirm their identities. Madison365 has reached out to the deputies; one referred questions to the records custodian and the others did not respond.
Video does not clearly show the impact on the floor, but Joshua said he could tell he was seriously injured.
The video below is a short clip depicting the exchange with the deputy and the incident. The entire 30-minute video, which some may find upsetting, can be viewed at this link. It is being shared with Joshua’s permission.
“When I fell to the ground on my right side from them grabbing me by my left leg and picking me up and slamming me on my right side, my hip broke. I could feel it popping out of my skin,” Joshua said.
Video shows that later, more deputies and a nurse arrived to assist.
“My leg was so jacked up that I couldn’t unbend my knee, I couldn’t straighten my leg out. So I’m telling them, ‘Please get off me, please get off me. I think my hip is broken.’ I’m yelling and screaming and crying, I’m in panic, I’m in shock. They got their knees all on my neck, all on my back, all on my legs, I’m telling them, ‘Get off me.’ They’re telling me, ‘Stop resisting, stop resisting.’ And I’m like, ‘I haven’t resisted one time. I haven’t resisted one time, get off me.’”
After about five minutes on the floor, deputies lifted Joshua into a restraint chair, and Joshua expressed thoughts of self-harm.
“I told the sergeant there I wanted to go to suicide watch,” Joshua said. “I said, ‘I don’t feel safe around you and your deputies, I don’t feel safe here in the jail. I feel like harming myself. You guys are not giving me medical attention, I feel like I’m going to die anyway so I want to go to suicide watch’ … I really felt that way. I felt that I was under mental distress, I was depressed. I was not myself anymore. I felt stripped. I felt that they were being prejudiced and I felt they was neglecting me and giving me medical attention. Who does that to somebody?”
Joshua said deputies moved him in the restraint chair down to the sixth floor, where inmates who are thought to be suicidal can be observed more closely and placed in greater isolation. Video shows Joshua breathing heavily while being wheeled into the isolation cell.
A team of six deputies were able to position Joshua on a mat on his left side and cut off his clothes, leaving him naked. Over the next hour, he managed to prop himself up and bang on a window to get the attention of medical staff, according to surveillance video. After about an hour and 20 minutes, deputies in tactical gear attempted to put him in a restraint chair — it’s unclear why — but gave up.
“They’re trying to move me and I’m in so much pain that I can’t move, and they was like, ‘Well, (expletive) that. He’s in pain, he’s in shock. We can’t touch him, we can’t move him, just leave him there.’ And they left after that,” Joshua said.
Video indicates that they returned with a nurse about seven minutes later. Joshua said she checked his temperature, but didn’t examine his hip. Video does not show the nurse examining his hip.
The video below is edited to show key moments in Joshua’s first two hours in isolation after his injury. The entire video, which may be upsetting, can be viewed at this link. It is being shared with Joshua’s permission.
Joshua said that over the course of the night, deputies placed cups of water through the lower flap of the door, but he was unable to reach them. He also said he was unable to reach the toilet, and as a result urinated and defecated on himself during the night.
The next morning
Joshua’s fiancee, Allison Davidson, said she usually gets a “good morning” message via the jail tablet system. She became concerned when she didn’t get one on the morning of December 24, so initiated a video call.
Joshua said he wasn’t able to answer.
“One of the inmates is out for his hour out in the dayroom, and he says, ‘Hey, Jimmy, you got a video visit.’ And I’m like, ‘I can’t get up, I can’t come to my door, I can’t move … Can you answer it for me and let her know everything that’s going on,’” Joshua said.
Davidson said she could hear Joshua in the background of the video call explaining what had happened. She then called the jail.
The sergeant she spoke to “was sitting there telling me, ‘We don’t do that here, Jimmie’s probably lying.’ It wasn’t until after that phone call that he was sent to the hospital finally,” she said.
Joshua said that after Davidson called the jail, another deputy and nurse came into the cell and determined that he needed medical attention.
“(They) helped me get up in a wheelchair. I couldn’t sit down in the wheelchair, I had to kneel on the wheelchair and hold the bars to sit up straight in the wheelchair,” he said. He said the nurse attempted to use jail equipment to administer an x-ray, but Joshua was unable to move his legs enough to allow the jail’s equipment to work.
Joshua said the nurse then told jail and medical staff that he’d have to be sent to the hospital, and an ambulance was called.
Records obtained by Madison365 indicate that Joshua arrived at the UW Hospital Emergency Department at 11:07 am on December 24, more than 16 hours after the injury took place. An emergency room physician noted on his chart that his hip had been dislocated “for quite a while” by that point as a result of an altercation with deputies the night before. Records indicate that he was diagnosed with a dislocated hip, fracture of the hip socket and nerve damage.
The attending orthopedic surgeon wrote in Joshua’s chart, “He was very upset with the events surrounding his injury. I can understand why,” and that he recommended surgery.
Joshua was admitted to orthopedic surgery at 4:30 pm on December 24. Later that evening, the surgeon repaired the fracture with a plate and eight screws. Joshua was discharged back to the jail eight days later on December 31.
Joshua’s surgeon declined to speak with Madison365.
Medical records indicate that Joshua had fractured his ankle earlier in the year, but did not note any previous hip injury.
Upon return to the jail, Joshua said he was placed in what he called a “sick cell.” He said he also had regular interactions with the same deputies who had injured his hip on December 23.
Joshua has filed a number of grievances, which he said have all been denied.
On January 19, Davidson sent a Facebook message to Sheriff David Mahoney, who responded, “I’ll look into this.” She followed up on January 27, and Mahoney asked for a cell phone number. Davidson said a deputy called her but didn’t provide much information. When she followed up by Facebook messenger again on February 18, Mahoney responded, “The information was provided to the jail staff who did check on him.”
Mahoney had announced on the evening of January 18 that he would retire from law enforcement.
On March 3, Joshua filed a prisoner civil rights lawsuit against the Dane County Jail, its staff, and Wellpath, the jail’s healthcare contractor. He is not currently represented by an attorney in that suit, and no hearing dates have yet been set. He is seeking $2.5 million to cover ongoing medical expenses as well as pain and suffering.
“The doctors, they told me that I have permanent nerve damage and eventually I will have to have a hip replacement and a knee replacement, and that I’m not going to be able to walk the same anymore,” he said. “Currently I’m still on a walker, and currently I still use the extra toilet seat, due to the fact that I can’t squat or I can’t move my legs in the 90-degree angle or I can’t exercise as much. I can’t put as much pressure as on my right leg, as much as on my left leg.”
The Dane County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to questions regarding the identities of the deputies involved in the December 23 incident, whether or not any jail policies were violated, whether any deputies had been disciplined and whether any of the deputies involved had any record of disciplinary action.
About four hours after Madison365 emailed the Sheriff’s office with a list of questions, attorney Remzy Bitar of Waukesha-based Municipal Law & Litigation Group called and said he was representing the county, and that Joshua’s story was inaccurate. Asked when he was retained, he said, “A couple hours ago,” and said he had not reviewed the video nor the complaints in the case. Still, he said, “we’re confident there’s another story here.”
A longtime County Board official declined to comment on Joshua’s case specifically, but said if his description of events is accurate, County policies would appear to have been violated.
A representative of the ACLU of Wisconsin said the organization couldn’t comment on a specific case, but said in a statement, “In general, the 8th amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment clause forbids ‘deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.’ Deliberately denying or withholding medical care for an extended period for a serious or very painful injury could violate that standard, but it depends on what the staff knew about the injury, how serious or painful it was, whether earlier treatment would have made a difference in the outcome and other factors that may have made earlier intervention difficult or impossible.”
The Dane County Sheriff’s Office website says, “The Dane County Jail offers medical and mental health care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, the Dane County Jail does not have an Infirmary. Emergency medical and mental health requests are handled immediately. Non-emergent medical and mental health requests may be addressed through an electronic sick call slip. Slips are processed daily. Request slips for medical and mental health care are triaged within 24 hours and addressed within 48 hours Mon-Fri. Requests will be addressed within 72 hours on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Joshua said he filed the federal suit mainly for accountability.
“I’m asking the courts to really look into my situation and how my situation can help and benefit other inmates in my position for getting their rights not violated anymore,” he said.
Davidson is seeking donations to help with Joshua’s legal expenses at http://spot.fund/9hlc8c.