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Richland County pays $750,000 after inmate beaten at county jail

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COLUMBIA, South Carolina — Richland County is paying $750,000 to settle a lawsuit after the beating of a handcuffed, homeless inmate in the county jail.

Robert Sweeper III suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs and broken vertebrae in the 2012 attack, The State newspaper (http://bit.ly/WjzXqg) reported.

Officials said guards left him in his cell for five days before medics were called to take him to the hospital. One guard, 38-year-old Robin Smith, was sentenced to two years in prison. Six other officers were fired.

Sweeper had been arrested on trespassing charges and was placed in a suicide watch cell after authorities said he was incoherent before the assault.

Attorney, Dick Harpootlian said Sweeper is in a facility in Charleston recovering from physical and mental issues related to the beating.

The settlement is more than twice the amount of a state limit of $300,000 the county could be liable for if a state jury considered the lawsuit. Richland County officials decided to pay the higher amount because the case could have been moved to federal court, with the potential for a higher award.

"If this were moved to federal court, we could be exposing Richland County to a multimillion-dollar jury award," said Councilman Seth Rose.

"We also had to take into account we would also be spending a large amount of money in attorneys' fees defending what is basically an indefensible act by some employees," Rose said.


Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com

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