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Grand jury To weigh jail assault case Complaint is second against supervisor involving inmate; Trial pending on 1st charge; Latest incident involved man who was handcuffed bTC


A second assault complaint against a controversial Howard County Detention Center supervisor has been sent by the county state's attorney's office to the local grand jury for consideration of criminal charges -- two months after grand jurors decided to prosecute the supervisor on charges of beating a handcuffed inmate at the jail.

In the latest complaint, the jail supervisor, Capt. Thomas V. Kimball of Baltimore, is accused of assaulting Lamont Donald Adams, 27, of Columbia when he was an inmate.

Adams was wearing handcuffs during the scuffle at the jail Feb. 2, according to Kimball's written report of the incident. Kimball told jail officials he suffered a knee injury in the scuffle and later filed and won a worker's compensation claim based on that injury.

A third complaint against Kimball -- by a third inmate involved in a separate incident -- was dropped by the county state's attorney's office because it was filed after the statute of limitations for pressing criminal charges had passed.

Kimball, 48, could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted on charges that he assaulted Michael Alexander Saukas of Ellicott City, who alleges that he was handcuffed during a fight with Kimball Feb. 24 at the jail. At the time, Saukas was serving a 14-month sentence at the jail for violating his probation.

No trial date has been set in that case.

After the grand jury's decision in the Saukas case, Kimball, who had been overseeing almost half of the jail's 99 correctional officers, was removed from his post and now performs administrative duties. Those responsibilities include visiting work-release sites to check on inmates and consulting employers about the work-release participants.

Kimball, who declined to comment yesterday, has been at the center of several controversies at the Howard jail since May, when inquiries by The Sun revealed that he was not a certified correctional officer.

He has since earned that certification, but then the assault allegations were filed.

The county is spending $5,000 from its risk-management fund to defend Kimball in the Saukas incident and to defend Officer Donald J. Pryor, who has been accused of assaulting Saukas in another incident last fall that is separate from the other allegations.

"I'm concerned," County Executive Charles I. Ecker said yesterday. "I don't condone, I don't want to put up with any undue actions by guards. From my review of the records, there doesn't seem to be anything there, but we'll wait to see what the grand jury says."

Yesterday, James N. "Buck" Rollins, director of the 361-bed jail in Jessup, would not discuss the latest complaint before the grand jury.

"I have no thoughts on that," Rollins said. "They are summoning some of my people. All we're going to do is cooperate."

Details of case

Kimball is accused of assaulting Adams after the inmate refused return to his cell, according to jail incident reports. Adams was leaving the jail's medical unit and began arguing with jail Officer Joseph K. McCusker, telling him that he did not want to go back to his cell, according to the jail reports.

McCusker requested assistance over his radio from other officers, and Kimball and several officers responded.

In his report, Kimball said that he grabbed Adams twice after the inmate was ordered to return to his cell, trying to forcibly direct him to his cell. The second time, Kimball said, Adams fell to the floor and he fell on top of the inmate. Several other officers then fell on top of Kimball and Adams.

Kimball said in his report that he suffered a knee injury in the scuffle and filed a worker's compensation claim the day of the incident.

The state's Worker's Compensation Commission awarded him compensation Aug. 27. According to the commission's report, Kimball was granted $540 a week as compensation for the knee injury he suffered in the scuffle with Adams.

Those payments were to be made for the time that Kimball was unable to work because of the injury, which began Feb. 6. The commission's report did not state how many weeks he was unable to work or how much money he was paid.

The payments were in addition to Kimball's $900 weekly salary, which he continued to draw while he was not working because of the injury, according to the commission's report.

At a news conference last month, Rollins said there had been no questions about Kimball's handling of the Adams incident until October, when an anonymous caller to Howard County police alleged that the officer used too much force in handling the inmate.

During the news conference, Rollins said he thought the anonymous call had come from the jail and that the caller was an underling who doesn't like Kimball because he is a tough supervisor who believes in following the jail's rules.

Some jail officers, speaking anonymously for fear of retribution, say Kimball has been too heavy-handed with subordinates and inmates.

Officers' petition

In October 1995, more than 20 officers signed a petition criticizing Kimball that was given to the jail's security supervisor, McLindsey Hawkins, say officers, who provided The Sun with a copy of that petition.

Other than that petition, no one has filed a formal grievance with union representatives or jail officials about Kimball, according to Rollins and George Gisin, a staff member for Council 67 of the Maryland Public Employees Union, which represents jail officers.

But Gisin said an officer called him yesterday to request a meeting about troubles at the jail. "I know Kimball is going to be an issue," Gisin said.

Kimball came to the Howard jail in February 1994 as correctional captain -- a position that carries a salary of $35,169 to $50,912 a year -- with 20 years of experience in Maryland prisons.

Earlier, Kimball had been an assistant warden at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Somerset County. He resigned in 1989 amid allegations that he failed to report drug use by a subordinate, according to reports in The Sun at the time and a state public safety and correctional services official.

Pub Date: 12/03/96

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