Man claims mentally ill inmate beat him
A former Morgan City jail inmate, who said he received extensive injuries after being beaten by a mentally ill, violent prisoner, has filed suit against the city in 16th Judicial Court.
Billy Ray Bentley, 50, claims in a suit filed Feb. 26 to have sustained injuries requiring “medical treatment and hospitalization of 14 days” after being “severely beaten” by Johnathan D. Franklin, 26, on March 2, 2013.
Bentley’s suit is seeking unspecified monetary damages from the city because Morgan City police failed to segregate Franklin “from other non-violent prisoners until after he had severely beaten” Bentley. The suit said police knew of Franklin’s violent disposition and should have been aware of his mental problems or issues.
Franklin was arrested a month before on a warrant for failure to appear for arraignment and resisting an officer. He was charged with second-degree battery in the jail beating.
The arrest affidavit filed by Morgan City police in the incident states that a loud commotion caused a jailer to see Bentley “positioned behind the bars on the bed to prevent J. Franklin from hitting him.” The officer returned to the jailer’s office, contacted another officer and informed him there was a fight on the block and then returned with keys to the cell, the affidavit said.
At this time, according to the affidavit, the officer noticed “Bentley’s head was bleeding and Franklin was still in an aggressive stance.” Bentley, who had “a lot of blood on him,” was allowed to shower and was taken to Teche Regional Medical Center “to have his ribs looked at.”
The lawsuit claims Bentley incurred over $30,000 in medical expenses from the incident and “his recovery was extremely painful as a result of his broken ribs and collapsed lung.”
Bentley was in the fourth day of serving 30 days at the jail for a probation violation when the incident occurred, according to the lawsuit.
District Judge Lori Landry issued a pre-trial commitment order on Feb. 21 for the assailant in the incident because he “presently lacks the mental capacity to understand the proceedings against him and to assist in his defense.” Franklin was ordered committed to East Louisiana Mental Health System, Forensic Division in Jackson until he can assist in his defense.
The transcript of the Aug. 1 hearing to determine whether to appoint a sanity commission reveals Franklin was resisting an insanity plea recommended by his attorney and was intent on getting the case finished and serve his time.
But Landry became convinced a sanity hearing was needed.
Franklin asked for his “working credentials” and “attorney degree” from the courtroom computer files early in the proceedings, according to the transcripts.
He claimed to have gone to law school at LSU-Eunice and Loyola, got a degree in radiology at LSU as well as architecture and criminal justice, stated the transcripts. He said he also went to “ICDC College,” which he appeared to mean Delgado Community College. He then claimed to have gone to the University of Florida and played football for the ’Gators.
Franklin told the judge he wanted to get the legal process moving and “get you up to speed and up to date because I am just sitting in jail.”
He was representing himself as a member of his own law firm, J.G. Wentworth, and of Gordon’s in Lafayette, he said.
Landry asked, “Those are the only two law firms you belong to?”
Franklin answered, “For the moment, yes.”
Landry denied Franklin’s request to speak with her privately in her office as he was being escorted from the courtroom at the end of the proceeding.
Landry is cited in the transcripts as saying, “I think he is delusional. … While he does have some recall about the facts, what he thinks he knows and what actually happened can get confused. … So we’ll appoint the sanity commission.”
The two doctors appointed to the sanity commission offered different conclusions on Franklin’s state of mental well-being.
Dr. James Blackburn, a Lafayette psychiatrist, reported Franklin admitted to being taken to a mental health clinic. Franklin did not present any symptoms of a mental disorder and can assist his attorney in his defense, the report stated.
Dr. Michael Blue, a Tulane University assistant professor of psychiatry, stated in his report that Franklin demonstrated “overt signs of a psychotic illness including auditory hallucinations, paranoia and suspiciousness.” Blue said Franklin’s condition would impact his ability to consult with his lawyer.
Blue recommended Franklin’s admission to the Jackson forensic hospital for treatment.
Morgan City Police Chief Michael Banks was unavailable for comment this morning.