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Hancock County settles lawsuit with man who received profanity-laced voicemail

Ja'Michael Bryant filed a federal lawsuit in May 2023
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Hancock County Corrections Voicemail
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Posted at 12:02 PM, Jun 10, 2024

WARNING: The story below contains language that may be offensive to some readers.

HANCOCK COUNTY — The Hancock County Commissioners have settled a lawsuit filed by a Cumberland man who received a profanity-laced voicemail from Community Corrections officers.

Ja'Michael Bryant filed a federal lawsuit in May 2023 against the Hancock County Board of Commissioners and Community Corrections officers, alleging racial discrimination and violation of his civil rights.

In the three-minute recording, three Community Corrections workers are heard talking to each other about Bryant.

They refer to Bryant as a “lazy motherf**ker,” a “b**ch,” a “little thuggy,” and discuss “going to go get in his ass.”

A June 7 court filing says “the parties have reached a settlement.”

WRTV Investigates is working to find out more information on the settlement.

"The settlement has to be approved by the County which is a formality," said Hancock County attorney Scott Benkie in an email to WRTV.

Bryant's attorneys at KINNARD, ROWLEY, POWERS, JIMENEZ in Indianapolis provided the following statement:

"We are pleased to have reached a substantial settlement in this matter that fairly and equitably reflects the seriousness of the incident and the County’s willingness to bring closure for Mr. Bryant. It is Mr. Bryant’s sincere desire that this case can serve to promote racial equity, but particularly in the context of government officials and the way those officials interact with a diverse constituency. Our government officials maintain an incredible level of authority over the citizenry, and it is imperative that race, gender, and other discriminatory factors play no role in the policy decisions."

It’s an update to a story WRTV Investigates broke last year after three officers were caught on tape, talking about Bryant in a profanity-laced voicemail.

Community Corrections is an alternative to prison and jail where offenders can serve out their sentence on work release or home detention.

Bryant was under their supervision at the time.

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Terrance Kinnard is a civil and criminal attorney based in Indianapolis.

He represents Bryant, who at the time was serving a home detention sentence for dealing marijuana.

"I was shocked,” said Kinnard. “You always hear these things occur but you’re always skeptical. You don’t want to believe that people are that nefarious.”

Three Community Corrections employees at the time— Nicole Raffaelli, Thomas Smith, and Daniel Devoy—can be heard talking about Ja’Michael Bryant and his home.

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Nicole Raffaelli (left)
Thomas Smith (middle)
Daniel Devoy (right)


THE FOLLOWING ARE TRANSCRIPTION EXCERPTS FROM THE RECORDING

Little thuggy.
Little motherf**ker.
Little thuggy.
Yeah, so he pissed me off.So, I want to go get in his ass.
Is he, he…Wonder why he's not at work.
I said I don't know.
Where does he work at even?
He works for his mother. And…Oh, he's a janitor or something isn't he.
Actually, he picks up stuff for a house that has a bunch of people…Because his mother runs a daycare for adults that are unable to take care of themselves. So, she hires him.He goes picks up…
He's her b**ch.
He'll go to Taco Bell. Pick up all the Taco Bell. Because every day they want to get something different to eat.
He probably lays in bed until mom calls him and says hey…Yep. Time to go to work.
I need you to go to Walgreens and pick up diapers for this guy that’s here.
He doesn't go to work (Inaudible) leave around…I want to say 10 o'clock.
He's got it made then.
Yeah, f**k this guy. F**k this guy. That f**king pisses me off. F**k this guy.
You want to run over there and see this b**ch real quick?
Um hm.
It's not that far.

LISTEN | You can listen to the recording below.

In November 2022, Bryant was convicted of dealing marijuana and sentenced to a year and a half on Hancock County Community Corrections Home Detention.

Hancock County Corrections Voicemail

The federal lawsuit alleges Bryant experienced a “relentless campaign of harassment” even before the voicemail.

The lawsuit also accuses Hancock County of violating Bryant’s civil rights and allowing a “deep-rooted culture of racism.”

“We filed the lawsuit because there was an egregious wrong that was done here,” said Kinnard. “Not only are they supervising him, they have control over his life and they actually made other decisions that weren't recorded that we can look back on and interpret what their intent was."

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The three employees heard on the voicemail, Devoy, Smith and Raffaelli, received a written reprimand.

Smith was terminated after he was arrested for drunk driving in May 2023.

Raffaelli still works for Hancock County Community Corrections, according to the county’s website.

As for Devoy, he retired from Community Corrections and is now working for the jail part-time.

PREVIOUS | Community Corrections director resigns

The Hancock County Commissioners investigated but took no action.

PREVIOUS | Hancock County Corrections Officers disciplined for profanity-laced voicemail

Kinnard said the Hancock County Commissioners needed to do a broader investigation into the officers’ conduct.