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Ripping Grill Off Teeth of Man in Custody Costs Metro $100,000

By Nate Rau
Nashville Tennessean
Tuesday, March 16, 2010


A sheriff's lieutenant welcomed Anthony McCoy to the Davidson County jail system by ordering him to open wide to inspect the gold jewelry attached to his teeth.

What happened next left McCoy with a bloody mouth, 10 days of untreated, throbbing pain, and Metro taxpayers with a legal bill close to $100,000.

"He was spitting out blood and teeth into a trash can, and then told to get back in line," said McCoy's attorney, David Raybin.

The incident in November started with McCoy's arrest after failing to pay child support. A sheriff's deputy told him to remove the gold grill attached to his teeth. But when McCoy, 31, told the deputy it was permanently attached, Lt. Tanya Mayhew stepped in. She put on a rubber glove, stuck her hand in his mouth, and yanked out the gold jewelry grill cemented to his teeth.

Raybin said his client had the enamel on his front four teeth ripped away and was denied proper medical treatment afterward. He asked to see a dentist but was given Tylenol instead. It took 10 days locked away before the dentist came.

The incident left his teeth disfigured and needing at least $10,000 in dental work. Metro lawyers have scrambled to reach a $95,000 legal settlement, including pain and suffering, that will go before the Metro Council tonight.

"This appears to be an unusual and pretty reprehensible act," said Councilman Ronnie Steine, the chairman of the budget and finance committee. "My hope is that the employee has had the appropriate disciplinary action for something that seems to be an egregious act."

Mayhew was demoted and suspended for five days because of the incident. Metro is at a loss to explain why the lieutenant would try to remove the grill because there was no policy against having gold-plated teeth, even if they weren't permanently attached. A new policy enacted since the incident forbids deputies from removing them.

According to legal analysis by the Metro Council office, Mayhew violated a sheriff's department policy by placing her hand in McCoy's mouth. Metro also is liable for failing to provide medical treatment in a timely manner, and the officer's action could be a federal violation.

"A lawsuit regarding this matter would likely be filed in federal court since assault by a correctional officer is actionable under federal law as a civil rights violation," according to a Metro Council lawyer's legal analysis.

According to the Metro Department of Law, there were 13 other claims, totaling $11,000 involving the sheriff's department in the past year.

Raybin said Correct Care Solutions, the subcontractor the sheriff's department uses to provide medical care, has a history of not providing health care in a timely manner. The company has agreed to pay $20,000 of the settlement.

The sheriff's department and Metro Legal declined to comment on the incident because it is a pending legal matter. Correct Care Solutions did not return a phone call before deadline Monday.

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