Jimmie Joshua, who was left alone in an isolation cell for 15 hours after Dane County deputies threw him to a concrete floor and broke his hip, requiring major surgery and an eight-day hospital stay, has sued the County in federal court for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Also named in the suit are Wellpath, the company that provides health care for jail residens, and several individuals employed by the County and Wellpath. Deputies Isaac Wachholz, Sean Shotliff, Travis McPherson and Benjamin Poquette are all being sued in their individual capacity.
As Madison365 exclusively reported in March 2021, security video shows Joshua involved in a verbal dispute with Dane County Deputy Isaac Wacholz on December 23, 2020. After being ordered back into his cell, Joshua complied, but Wacholz and two other deputies forcibly removed him from the cell and tackled him to the ground, fracturing his hip. Deputies then placed Joshua in an isolation cell, where he was unable to move for 15 hours. Only after his fiancee Allison Davidson alerted jail officials to the situation did a nurse attempt to administer an X-ray. Because Joshua couldn’t move his leg enough to be positioned for the x-ray, deputies took him to the hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery and had a plate and eight screws placed in his hip.
“Mr. Joshua was horribly mistreated as is demonstrated right in the video,” said Paul Kinne, the attorney who is representing Joshua. “He ultimately complied with what deputy Wacholz said, but he made apparently made deputy Wacholz angry. And as a result of that, he was severely beaten by guards when he was actually doing what they told him to do. That kind of conduct can’t be tolerated in society.”
Kinne said the lawsuit distinguishes between two distincts acts by County and Wellpath officials: first, the altercation that broke Joshua’s hip, and second, the neglect of leaving him alone overnight.
“To add insult to injury — well, actually to add injury to injury, he had a broken hip that the jail officials and the healthcare providers there ignored,” Kinne said. “He suffered needlessly in pain with a broken hip until finally he got treatment. He wants to be compensated that additional pain separately.”
Joshua initially filed a complaint in the Western District of Wisconsin federal court in February of 2021, but withdrew that suit after securing representation.
Kinne said the suit could take a year before it even moves forward on the merits, because the court screens cases filed by inmates to ensure they aren’t simply being filed to harass jail officials.
“I’m extraordinarily confident that we’re going to pass that threshold, but the courts are busy and that can take a lot of time,” Kinne said.
Once it does move forward, Kinne and Joshua will seek not only compensation for the injuries, but punitive damages as well.
“What Mr. Joshua wants is a just result,” Kinne said. “He wants to be compensated for the pain, the experience for the emotional trauma that was caused by this. And he also is seeking punitive damages. The law can … tell public officials that if they’re going to act this way, they’re going to be punished. So he is also seeing punitive damages.”
“I think Jimmie deserves justice and the men that did this to him should not be working there,” said Johsua’s fiancee, Allison Davidson. “They obviously don’t know what excessive force is and just think it’s okay to go ahead and treat particularly Black men and women however they want to and think they’re gonna get away with it.”
Davidson said when she’s spoken with Sheriff Kalvin Barrett, who was not yet sheriff at the time of the incident, he’s used the opportunity to advocate, and try to persuade Davidson to advocate, for the county to build a new jail. But Davidson said she doesn’t believe the old jail is the problem.
“No, this is a people problem,” she said. “People choose how they act. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong.”
Barrett did not respond to messages seeking confirmation or clarification.
Johsua has said in interviews since that he didn’t receive adequate physical therapy or health care in the jail, and said in an interview this week that he still requires a walker at the Columbia County Correctional Institution, where he currently resides. Kinne said, however, that the subsequent health care and physical therapy issues are not part of the lawsuit at this point.
“Right now our focus is really more on the event itself and what flowed directly from it,” he said.
A representative for Wellpath declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation. Questions to the County were directed to Attorney Remzy D. Bitar, who declined comment for the same reason.