Note: This story was updated at 5 p.m. to correct the amount of damages sought in the lawsuit.
An Alabama man who said he was beaten and raped at Silverdale Detention Center last year after turning himself in on outstanding warrants has filed a lawsuit against Hamilton County and former Sheriff Jim Hammond and over 50 correctional officers.
Matthew Miller, who spoke to the Chattanooga Times Free Press following his release from Silverdale last year, saying he "didn't want this to happen to a 19-year old kid that's going to jail for the first time," filed a lawsuit Tuesday.
"The treatment of so many like Mr. Miller by these defendants is shocking to the conscience," Tullahoma-based attorney Derek Jordan, who is representing Miller, said in a Tuesday email to the Times Free Press.
Jordan has come to represent nearly a dozen clients since filing three lawsuits early last year against the county, Hammond and Silverdale's medical provider, Alabama-based Quality Correctional Health Care.
"These defendants continue to rely on the worst of human nature," Jordan said. "That is, that the defendants capitalize and profit off our nature to look away from things that are hard to look at, especially when the atrocities are against victims who are incarcerated."
In Miller's case, Jordan claims in the Tuesday lawsuit in U.S. District Court that Miller was denied adequate medical care after he was beaten and raped.
The lawsuit seeks $3 million in actual damages and $8 million in punitive damages and asks that the "court declare that defendants acted illegally by failing to ensure constitutionally adequate levels of inmate safety, medical care and living conditions at Silverdale."
Now retired, Hammond declined to comment and referred the Times Free Press to the county attorney's office, who also declined to comment.
"It is time that we, as a community, as Tennesseeans, as Americans, are forced to take a hard look at brutal violence in our prisons and the systemic conditions that allow such atrocities," Jordan said. "We don't have to look too hard, or too long or too far to see. It's all right here in Mr. Miller's complaint and right here in Chattanooga."
BEGGING FOR WATER
Miller's lawsuit states he was hit by another inmate with a broken broomstick, then attacked by a group of inmates who continued to hit him "20 to 30 times."
"Plaintiff (Miller) recalls hearing one of the inmates yell, 'Let's get him into the shower!' His assailants then hauled him into the shower area to continue their beating," the lawsuit said. "One inmate carried on with the assault, repeatedly hitting plaintiff (Miller) with a plastic tote to further weaken him."
Miller was then sexually assaulted by that inmate, according to the lawsuit.
In medical records from Erlanger hospital, which were provided to the Times Free Press by Miller's family, Miller had multiple lacerations and a ligament tear of the knee. The records also said Miller had been sexually assaulted.
Correctional officers declined to have Miller stay overnight for observation at Erlanger -- despite the doctor's recommendations -- and took him back to Silverdale after a few hours, according to the lawsuit.
Miller, who was kept alone in a holding cell after returning to Silverdale from Erlanger, previously told the Times Free Press that medical personnel at Silverdale would push medication through a small opening in the cell door, which would make the medication fall to the urine-soaked floor.
Because Silverdale staff took Miller's crutches away, he could not reach the sink to drink water, according to the lawsuit.
"Plaintiff was within earshot of Silverdale personnel and repeatedly begged for water and assistance," the lawsuit said. "But his cries for help were ignored."
At an April 19, 2022, hearing, Miller appeared at the Hamilton County General Sessions Court in a wheelchair and wearing a hospital gown with visible injuries and bruises to his head, face, knee and back.
"The attack was so brutal that the bones in plaintiff's (Miller) right leg were bruised," the lawsuit said. "His knee remains impaired to this day."
Miller's immediate release was ordered by the judge, who also gave him an 11-month, 29-day suspended sentence and placed him on probation for a previous offense for failing to appear in court, according to court documents.
Once out of Silverdale, Miller was taken back to Erlanger by his family, where they learned he was "not properly given the anti-HIV prophylactic medication because the pills had fallen behind a desk at Silverdale," according to the lawsuit.
"Plaintiff has since tested negative for HIV but has suffered extreme anxiety over the prospect of HIV infection due to the rape," the lawsuit said.
Miller had hoped to be at work just a few days after turning himself in on the outstanding warrant. Miller's other charges of possession of a controlled substance, reckless endangerment and a drunk driving charge were dismissed, according to court records.
Miller has since lost his job, according to the lawsuit.
"Plaintiff can no longer work full-time, as he did before the attack," the lawsuit said, adding "he will suffer for the rest of his life with reduced use and ability of his left hand and left leg. He will most likely require knee replacement as he ages."
The lawsuit references several other cases previously reported in the media.
Listed are the cases of Carol Rene White and DaQuarrius Brown, whose families claim direct medical neglect led to the deaths of their loved ones. Jordan represents Brown in a recently filed lawsuit claiming medical neglect.
Chattanooga firm Davis and Hoss, representing White's estate, have yet to file a lawsuit, according to Janie Varnell, the attorney handling the case.
The lawsuit also lists the recent lawsuit of Yolanda Holt, who claimed she was sexually assaulted by another female inmate at Silverdale, filed against the county by Chattanooga attorney Brandy Spurgin-Floyd.
It also lists an alleged incident detailed in a July 22, 2021, complaint filed in federal court by Donyell Dewayne Holland, who claims to have been assaulted by two correctional officers. Holland, who self-filed his complaint, claims he was punched, thrown against a wall and had his head slammed between a steel door and its frame on June 14, 2021, according to his complaint.
Holland claimed he was left on the cell floor for three days, without medical treatment, where he was "forced to urinate and defecate on himself" after medical staff told him to "get up and to quit crying like a big baby," according to Jordan's summary of Holland's filing.
Jordan said he would continue to fight for change as long as he needed to.
"Too often these allegations are disregarded by the media and the public as a money grab," Jordan said. "But what the people need to understand is that there is no amount of money that can repair victims like Mr. Miller and the many, many others who have been raped, beaten, ignored, neglected and disregarded, whose lives and dignity have been stolen while they are in the care of these public and private entities charged with their care. But money is often the only tool that those like Hamilton County and QCHC understand. We will fight in the courts as long as we need, even if we have to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, until there is justice."