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Prisoner Kicked In Head At Justice Center Brings Suit Against Deputy & Hamilton Co. Sheriff's Dept.

Ann Thompson
Former prisoner Nick Ballachino and his attorney Fanon Rucker during a press conference June 8.

A Cincinnati man assaulted while a prisoner at the Hamilton County Justice Center a year ago is now suing the Sheriff's Department and the former deputy accused of kicking him in the head.

Nick Ballachino and his attorney Fanon Rucker are asking for at least $25,000 to recover damages, ensure accountability within the Sheriff's Department and make sure such an attack doesn't happen to someone else, they say.

https://vimeo.com/434806640" target="_blank">A video shows former Sheriff's Deputy Jesse Franklin on June 9, 2020, kicking Ballachino in the head, resulting in the victim sustaining a traumatic brain injury. The following month, Franklin was fired, arrested and charged for the incident.

"Mr. Ballachino did not just suffer that day but has been suffering physical injuries, emotional injuries, the mental distress of this incident since it happened last year," says Rucker.

Ballachino, a construction worker by trade, says he isn't physically able to do it any more. He told reporters at a Tuesday news conference he hasn't received unemployment or disability pay. He's trying to put the assault behind him. "That's in the past. I'm trying to better my future and do whatever it takes to get past this."

In July 2020, the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office issued a release saying Ballachino became combative with the officers trying to process him. "While the officers were trying to subdue him, Ballachino bit Franklin's left foot," the statement read. "Franklin was wearing work boots when this happened. Video from the Justice Center shows Franklin immediately kicking Ballachino one time in the head after he bit him."

Video released to media at the time shows Ballachino being subdued on the ground while his shoes and socks are removed. At one point he moves his head over Franklin's boot and appears to make a biting movement, after which Franklin kicks him. The prosecutor's release says Ballachino was taken to University Hospital where he received five stitches above his left eye. He was treated and released back to the Justice Center.

"We're not alleging there's a pattern and practice of abuse by the Sheriff's Department and certainly we know there's new leadership in the Sheriff's Department," Rucker says. "But what we are saying in regard to this particular individual (Jesse Franklin) was not unknown to those who had the ability to remove him."

Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey has this response:

"While this incident did not occur under my administration, it is my belief that both parties named- Deputy Jesse Franklin and Nick Ballachino- deserve due process. Through that due process, the facts will be born out as to what actually happened. I assure the residents of Hamilton County that moving forward, my administration will continue to hold every deputy accountable for actions that are deemed inappropriate or excessive."

Former Deputy Franklin is preparing to go on trial for the assault. The charge is a misdemeanor.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.