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Charged Cook County Jail guard allegedly spat on another inmate

Litroy Bolton, allegedly punched by a guard at Cook County Jail in January 2014, spoke to reporters Monday. He held his son Litroy Jr., 9 months. Attorney Vince Field was at right. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

A Cook County Jail guard charged last week with the 2014 beating of an inmate was removed from duty in February after he was also accused of spitting on another inmate, a sheriff’s official confirmed Monday.

Correctional Officer Miguel Ortiz was charged last week with felony official misconduct and misdemeanor battery for allegedly punching inmate Litroy Bolton seven times in the face and head in January 2014.

Bolton has sued the sheriff’s office in federal court, accusing Ortiz of using excessive force and sheriff’s officials of covering it up.

At a news conference Monday, Bolton’s attorney Vince Field said he obtained documents through a Freedom of Information request showing Ortiz “assaulted 10 other inmates at Cook County Jail” after the January 2014 incident.

Field said sheriff’s officials dragged their feet during their investigation of the alleged beating, allowing other inmates to be attacked before Ortiz was suspended without pay in February.

Cara Smith, chief of policy for Sheriff Tom Dart, called Field’s allegations “ludicrous.”

Sheriff’s officials investigated whether Ortiz used excessive force in only two other incidents since Bolton’s alleged beating in 2014, Smith said.

One other incident — in which Ortiz allegedly spat on an inmate who spat on him in February 2016 — was sustained, Smith said. Later that month, she said, Ortiz was removed from duty as a result of the Bolton and spitting incidents.

The 10 “assaults” Field mentioned involved “use of force reports” officers must file when they use force or witness it, Smith said. Ortiz wasn’t found to have used excessive force in any other cases besides the Bolton and spitting incidents, she said.

“We are permitted to use force in the jail. We just can’t use excessive force,” she said. “With the benefit of hindsight [Ortiz] should have been moved earlier. But this was not a serial abuser of detainees who we kept in this position.”

Two videos, which the sheriff’s office made public last week, captured the alleged beating of Bolton. After prosecutors charged Ortiz on Thursday, a Cook County judge released him on his own recognizance. The judge viewed the videos and said it could be argued that Bolton appeared to be resisting Ortiz and his colleagues.

Prosecutors last week said that Bolton had refused to enter a jail cell that had been under quarantine because a sick inmate was previously held there. Ortiz grabbed Bolton, who fell backward, and the guard then illegally punched Bolton repeatedly before he could be handcuffed, prosecutors said.

At his news conference Monday at the Loevy & Loevy law firm, Bolton said another guard told him not to enter the cell in question but Ortiz told him, “You’re going to get in the cell or I’m going to put you in the cell anyway.”

Field said his client was placed in an “impossible situation” because of the conflicting orders.

Bolton told reporters he felt “helpless, defenseless” during the alleged beating by Ortiz.

Bolton said he spent about three weeks in jail on marijuana charges before they were dismissed. He said he suffered a swollen face and headaches because of the alleged beating.

Field accused other correctional officers who witnessed the 2014 incident of lying about it in their reports. He also accused the sheriff’s and the state’s attorney’s offices of delaying their investigations of the case intentionally.

Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, said Bolton “did not initially cooperate with the investigation,” adding, “This is a preposterous allegation.”