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Jailer put on unpaid leave

November 29, 2011

    The three Adams County Commissioners approved on Monday a six-page "findings of fact and conclusions of law" written by a special legal counsel, Fort Wayne lawyer "Tuck" Hopkins, in regard to a closed-door hearing held by the commissioners in September concerning an incident in August involving a jailer and an inmate at the county jail.
    The incident between Nick Yoder, a six-year veteran jailer, and inmate Elisabeth Stinson, in which Yoder allegedly roughly handled Stinson and handcuffed her after she caused a ruckus in a holding cell, led to the commissioners' finding against Yoder on three counts:
    — Excessive use of unnecessary force with regard to treatment of a female inmate on August 14, 2011.
    — Failure to follow jail protocol concerning physical interaction with a female inmate.
    — Prior verbal warning regarding aggressive attitude and behavior with inmates.
    The report also points out the size difference between Yoder, who is "over six feet three and weighs 240 pounds," and Stinson, who is "five feet seven and weighs 138 pounds."
    The commissioners decided not to fire Yoder as a jailer, but to put him on unpaid suspension for two months and to order him to "attend and successfully complete in a timely manner an anger-management course selected by the sheriff."
    In addition, says the document, Sheriff Shane Rekeweg will perform at least two performance evaluations within the next 12 months that positively reflect Yoder is performing in an acceptable manner.
    As the document states, partly referring to action filmed by a jail camera, the August 14 incident began when Stinson was in a detoxification cell from 10:30 to 11:45 p.m.
    Stinson "was yelling at Yoder. She put paper cups between the bars to spell out 'f--- you' and was banging on the metal phone box in the cell with her hand. She also punched the bar door numerous times.
    "Stinson was not harming herself or causing damage to county property, but was clearly loud and most likely taunting Yoder.
    "Yoder told Stinson to stop being disruptive . . . and to stop banging on things or she would be handcuffed.
    "Stinson hit the phone again and then walked away . . . while continuing to carry a telephone directory. She was apparently silent for about one minute.
    "Yoder . . . went to Stinson's cell with handcuffs. Stinson backed into a corner. Yoder proceeded toward Stinson and bent down, just out of view of the video. The phone book was next seen flying over Yoder's head and landing a few feet behind him.
    "Yoder then slammed Stinson onto a concrete bench and down to the floor, at which time he cuffed her. No further incidents occurred that evening.
    "Before the end of his shift, Yoder submitted a report . . . requesting that Elisabeth Stinson be charged with battery for assaulting him with a phone book."
    The report further says that Stinson "did not pose a threat to the safety of Mr. Yoder," that "the Adams County sheriff [and the department] has a sworn duty to protect all the citizens of Adams County," and that "the job requirements for a jail officer demand that the individual possess patience and self-control."
    Finally, the report says, "While the method of cuffing Yoder used is an accepted method, viewing the video, it appears fortuitous that Stinson was not injured as she hit the cement bench and the floor.
    "It appears that [Yoder acted] because he lost his temper or wanted to establish that she needed to be subservient to him. It appears there was no need for Yoder to enter the detox cell, particularly after Stinson had actually calmed down, according to the video. The cuffing did not appear to be necessary or warranted under the circumstances. He should have called for backup if he believed she was not going to be cooperative."

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