Iowa jail inmate sues sheriff, several officers for rights violations
The man claims officers allowed him to be assaulted by other inmates while being held in the Woodbury County Jail
By Nick Hytrek
Sioux City Journal
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — A Whiting, Iowa, man in prison for a fatal shooting has sued Woodbury County Sheriff Chad Sheehan and several jail staff members, saying officers allowed him to be assaulted by other inmates while he was held in the Woodbury County Jail.
Marvin Hidreth Jr. also alleges in the federal lawsuit that officers retaliated against him for filing complaints about his treatment, denied him visits with pastors and illegally searched his mail. The jail officers' actions led him to fear for his safety and sign a plea agreement so he could leave the jail sooner rather than remain there and stand trial, violating his right to a fair trial, Hildreth said.
He is seeking $1.5 million in punitive damages and $1,262 to reimburse him for medical costs from the assault. Hildreth filed the lawsuit himself Monday in U.S. District Court and is not currently represented by a lawyer.
Sheehan did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Hildreth, 22, is serving a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in Woodbury County District Court in May to voluntary manslaughter and going armed with intent for the May 31, 2021, shooting death of Russell Mohr at a Luton, Iowa, home, and intimidation with a dangerous weapon and eluding in an unrelated Monona County case.
Hildreth was arrested the day of the shooting and was held in the Woodbury County Jail until his sentencing.
He alleges in the lawsuit that on July 22, 2021, after his cell was locked down for the night, he heard his door buzz to unlock, and two inmates entered his cell and assaulted him with a toilet plunger, causing bruising to his face and a cracked tooth. Hildreth said two jail officers watched the assault. After filing a complaint with the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, Hildreth said Capt. Todd Harlow called the unlocking of Hildreth's cell a mistake. Harlow, who oversees the jail, and at least seven other jail staff members are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Hildreth said he filed religious discrimination complaints with the ombudsman's office about staff denying his visits with a pastor and withholding delivery of a religious book. He said the complaints were substantiated by the ombudsman's office, but led to harassment from jail officers who illegally opened his correspondence with the office and read the complaints. State administrative rules state that correspondence with the ombudsman is privileged and can be opened only by the inmate or in the inmate's presence.
Bert Dalmer, senior deputy ombudsman, said he wouldn't deny any of Hildreth's references to the complaints, but they are confidential and he's prohibited from discussing any details, findings or discussions his office might have had with Woodbury County officials about Hildreth's complaints.
(c)2023 Sioux City Journal, Iowa
Visit Sioux City Journal, Iowa at www.siouxcityjournal.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.