NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When a Tennessee jailer ripped the gold grill from a new inmate's teeth two days before Thanksgiving last year, it left the 31-year-old man in excruciating pain and left taxpayers on the hook for nearly $100,000 in damages.
Anthony McCoy spat out blood and teeth in a trash can and was in agony for more than a week after Davidson County Sheriff's Lt. Tanya Mayhew reached into his mouth and yanked out the grill, along with the cement attached to his teeth, said his lawyer, David Raybin. The forced extraction pulled the enamel off McCoy's front teeth and left him with a damaged mouth that still isn't fixed, Raybin said.
Nashville Metro Council on Tuesday approved a $95,000 settlement to avoid a lawsuit.
It happened Nov. 24, a day after McCoy was admitted to the Metro Jail on charges of contempt of court for failure to pay child support, two counts of violation of an order of protection and harassment.
When a guard asked McCoy to remove his grill while he was being processed in the jail, he said it was permanently cemented to his teeth years earlier.
In a legal analysis, the Metro Council's office acknowledges that Mayhew then reached into McCoy's mouth and ripped off the grill, causing an estimated $10,000 worth of damage to McCoy's teeth.
McCoy made repeated but futile requests for medical treatment," Raybin said.
"There was no urgency at all," Raybin said of the Metro Jail officials and Correct Care Solutions, the company that Nashville contracts with to provide inmate medical care. "This guy was in agony for over a week and a half." The inmate's claim is based on pain and suffering, as well as the dental damage.
CCS has agreed to pay $20,000 because of the "unwarranted delay" in receiving treatment, the Metro Council's legal analysis says. It also says Mayhew broke sheriff's office policy by reaching into the inmate's mouth. The paperwork also acknowledges that McCoy waited 10 days before ever receiving medical treatment beyond Tylenol, in spite of repeated pleas for help.
It's not clear why McCoy had to wait so long to get treatment or how many times he asked for help. It's also not clear whether jail officials ever requested that CCS see him sooner.
In an e-mail to The Associated Press, CCS declined to comment.
A Sheriff's Department spokeswoman said that since the incident, a new policy specifically prohibits jailers from removing inmates' grills. The Sheriff's Department referred other questions about the case to the county Health Department, which oversees the contract with CCS.
A Health Department spokesman said that federal privacy laws barred officials from saying whether McCoy sought medical treatment while in the jail.
City officials have previously been happy with the quality of care CCS has provided to the inmates, but are going to closely monitor the agency, said Health Department spokesman Brian Todd. "We don't ever want to see something like this happen again."
"This appears to be an unusual and pretty reprehensible act," Councilman Ronnie Steine, chairman of the budget and finance committee, told The Tennessean newspaper of Nashville. "My hope is that the employee has had the appropriate disciplinary action for something that seems to be an egregious act."
The lieutenant who pulled out the grill was demoted and received five days suspension.
McCoy was later convicted on the harassment charges and released from jail on Feb. 2.