$36.6 million verdict against Genesee County sheriffs for beating prisoner

"It wasn't a justifiable use of force. It was punishment and pain infliction for pain infliction’s sake."

A federal jury says what happened to William Jennings while in jail is worth $36.6 million.

"I asked them for $16 million. I think they thought the conduct was extremely outrageous and returned a verdict that exceeded what we asked for,” said Kevin Ernst, attorney for Jennings.

“I thought I was going to die,” said Jennings.

Jennings was admittedly drunk driving. His blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit when he was thrown in a Genesee County jail cell in September of 2010. The entire ordeal was caught on a jailhouse camera.

The attorney says the video in this case is so crucial. In fact, he said without the jailhouse video, he wasn’t even going to take the case.

During what Williams calls an “aggressive pat down,” he removed his hand from a wall, and was beaten, pepper sprayed, tased, and left in the cell for hours with a spit mask over his face.

"I ended up busting my tooth chewing a hole in the mask so I could breathe," said Jennings.

After a 12 day trial and 8 hours of deliberation, the jury awarded him a life changing sum of money - $36 million. Jennings says the money is great, but likely won’t fix all of his problems.

"I am not the same person and I never will be. Can you put a number on that? I don't know."

He’s hopeful real change will happen at the Genesee County jail.

"Every officer that we asked said they would do exactly the same thing all over again," said Ernst.

A year prior to his arrest, a similar incident happened to someone else in that same jail cell. That case was settled out of court for a fraction of the money. Fox 2 attempted to speak to the sheriff to get his response, but our calls were not returned.
 

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