Hamilton County sheriff’s sergeant fired for kicking handcuffed inmate in head back on job

Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 11:57 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 14, 2022 at 12:07 PM EST
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WARNING: Some viewers may find the video disturbing.

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A former Hamilton County sheriff’s sergeant who was fired after he was indicted for kicking a handcuffed inmate in the head is back on the job.

A misdemeanor assault charge against Jesse Franklin was dropped in August 2021 by city prosecutors who couldn’t find a use of force expert to testify against him, according to his attorney.

Prosecutors had the right to refile a charge against Franklin, which they did, but Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Bernie Bouchard acquitted him in a Jan. 21 bench trial.

The judge said the use of force in this situation didn’t rise to the level of a crime. A few months later, in April, the judge sealed and expunged the case.

Mike Allen, Franklin’s lawyer, has said the case was a “travesty” from the start.

“This is a case that never should have been indicted. My client did absolutely nothing wrong,” Allen said on Monday.

“He responded to a threat. He eliminated the threat and he did what any prudent police officer would do under the circumstances. He got his job back and that’s appropriate.”

Late last month, an arbitrator ruled in Franklin’s favor, securing his reinstatement at the sheriff’s office with his full seniority, rank and back pay.

Franklin was reinstated last week, on Thursday, at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, said Kyla Woods, a sheriff’s spokeswoman.

A county spokeswoman, Bridget Doherty, said his annual salary when he was fired in June 2020 was $68,532.46.

She was unable to immediately provide the back pay figure or say when Franklin would receive it. A short time later, she referred FOX19 NOW to the sheriff’s office, saying they would have that figure.

Franklin was terminated from the sheriff’s office in June 2020. The sheriff at the time, Jim Neil, announced an internal investigation determined Franklin used excessive force against an inmate at jail intake, Nicholas Ballachino.

Neil announced he was “outraged and shocked by this egregious conduct. These actions are inconsistent with our training and will not be tolerated under my watch.”

Franklin insisted he did nothing wrong from day one. He pleaded not guilty both times he was criminally charged.

The arbitrator determined Franklin “was clearly held to a different standard and treated far more severely.”

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)

Ballachino, of Delhi Township, sued Franklin, claiming assault, battery and civil rights violations. 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 alleges 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, the suit states.

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 denies the excessive force allegations and filed a countersuit, also on the grounds of assault and battery, court records show.

Both Franklin and Ballachino are seeking damages, attorneys fees and any additional relief should the court choose.

Sheriff McGuffey has been dismissed from the inmate’s original lawsuit, court records show.

It is now scheduled for a March 20, 2023 jury trial before Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Goering.

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