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Former Hamilton County sheriff’s sergeant found not guilty after kicking handcuffed inmate in head

Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 10:40 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2022 at 11:43 AM EST

WARNING: Some viewers may find the video disturbing.

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A former Hamilton County sheriff’s sergeant has been found not guilty after he kicked a handcuffed inmate in the head when the inmate bit his foot.

It happened back in 2020.

Jesse Franklin, 39, was found not guilty Friday on charges of misdemeanor assault, according to Judge Bernie Bouchard.

“The use of force by Sgt. Franklin in this particular situation did not rise to the level of a crime,” the judge said.

Since it was a bench trial, the judge was the one who would decide the verdict.

Mike Allen, Franklin’s lawyer, told FOX19 NOW an indictment should have never come.

“The case was a travesty from the start and he never should have been indicted,” Allen said.

Former Hamilton County sheriff’s sergeant found not guilty after kicking handcuffed inmate in head

Cincinnati city prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss the assault charge last summer.

One of the city’s prosecutors, Sue Zurface, told Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Bernie Bouchard back on Aug. 20, 2021, “the state is unable to go forward” because they were unable to get an expert witness to testify.

The sheriff at the time Franklin was fired in June 2020, Jim Neil, said as soon as he found out about the incident, he suspended Franklin’s police powers and ordered an investigation.

The probe determined Franklin used excessive force by kicking the handcuffed inmate, Nicholas Ballachino, in the head, Neil said in a statement at the time.

“As Sheriff of Hamilton County,” Neil said in 2020, “I am outraged and shocked by this egregious conduct. These actions are inconsistent with our training and will not be tolerated under my watch.”

Franklin faces up to 6 months in the Justice Center if he is convicted.
Franklin faces up to 6 months in the Justice Center if he is convicted.(WXIX)

According to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, Ballachino was arrested for disorderly conduct while intoxicated and obstructing official business and taken to the county jail on June 9, 2020.

When deputies and Ballachino arrived, he “became combative” with the officers trying to process him, Deters said.

While the officers were trying to subdue him, Ballachino bit Franklin’s left foot, according to Deters.

Video from the Hamilton County Justice Center shows Franklin immediately kicking Ballachino one time in the head after he bit him, Deters said.

Ballachino was taken to University of Cincinnati Medical Center, treated and released back to the jail.

He was convicted of the obstructing official business charge, and the disorderly conduct charge was dismissed, court records show.

In July 2021, Ballachino, 48, of Delhi Township, sued Franklin, alleging his civil rights were violated, and on account of assault and battery. He was handcuffed and face down during the incident. the suit alleges.

The sheriff’s office and Hamilton County Board of Commissioners also are named in the litigation.

It states the policies and customs of the sheriff’s office are the reason behind Franklin’s excessive use of force:

“Defendants Hamilton County and former Sheriff Neil had knowledge prior to this incident of committed similar acts by Defendant Officers, particularly numerous incidents committed by Defendant Franklin. Defendants Hamilton County and former Sheriff Neil have refused or otherwise failed to adequately discipline all individual deputies involved in this incident.”

In the county and sheriff’s office written response to the case in court records, they admit Franklin was fired “for violation of department rules and for the use of excessive force” but deny the other allegations.

Franklin is still facing a civil lawsuit filed by Ballachino. The trial for the civil suit is scheduled to begin in September.

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