Woman sues firm that runs Silverdale for saying she didn't serve time, locking her up again

Silverdale Detention Center
photo Veronica Fuget

A 46-year-old woman says she was unjustly locked in jail for two weeks because of a paperwork glitch at Silverdale Detention Center.

Veronica Fuget is asking Corrections Corporation of America, a leading provider of public-private prison agreements, for $150,000, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Hamilton County Circuit Court. CCA is responsible for operating Silverdale, which houses inmates awaiting trial and people who have been sentenced to minor punishments.

On Sept. 10, 2015, Fuget pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and was ordered to spend seven consecutive days in Silverdale. After that, she was supposed to return to the workhouse on three separate weekends - Sept. 25, Oct. 2, and Oct. 9 - to complete court-mandated "public work days."

Court records tell the rest of the story: Fuget showed up at 4:20 p.m. on Sept. 12. Then, after completing her seven days, CCA released her. But shortly after, "unknown CCA staff members falsely and without probable cause" told a court liason that Fuget never served her time, the suit says.

In a Sept. 17, 2015, memorandum to the court, a county employee told a judge to consider Fuget "a no-show." One week later, Judge Barry Steelman issued a warrant for her arrest, saying she wasn't entitled to a bond and would have to stay in jail because she'd violated probation.

Her attorney, Robin Flores, said Fuget reported to Silverdale Oct. 2 - as scheduled - but wasn't allowed to leave two days later because of the arrest warrant.

"She doesn't know until she tries to get released," Flores said Friday of the warrant. "Once they held her beyond her release time, that's when her injury was inflicted. That arrest warrant had no probable cause."

From Oct. 4 until Oct. 11, Fuget sat in jail, the suit says, because Silverdale took a week to transfer her to Hamilton County Jail, where she had to be processed for the new arrest warrant.

A Silverdale spokeswoman didn't return calls for comment Friday. Neither did a CCA official in Nashville.

Another eight days passed. Then, the suit says, Fuget appeared before Steelman, who dismissed the bond revocation, released her from Silverdale, and said she didn't have to serve anymore public work days.

"It's an error on the part of the workhouse," Steelman said after reviewing the evidence. "She should never have been picked up in the first place. The court should not have received that notice from Silverdale, based on what I've been told."

Steelman was unavailable for comment Friday, but the suit is not directed at him, the court liason, or Silverdale - just CCA, the parent corporation.

"As a direct result of the acts of CCA, [Fuget] suffered unnecessary loss of her liberty, mental anguish, and had to incur the expense of defense counsel," Flores wrote in the motion.

CCA knew Fuget's punishment, should have known her release dates, and made money off her extra time in jail, the suit says. This was cruel and unusual punishment, a deprivation of due process, and a false imprisonment.

It was also negligent, he wrote. Between her sentence and the weekend work date, Fuget was supposed to serve no more than two weeks in jail.

Instead, records show, she sat there for 25 days total.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow on Twitter @zackpeterson918.