A 395-pound lieutenant from the Orleans County Sheriff's Department vehemently denied Monday that he tortured a prisoner in the county jail by repeatedly stomping on his penis.
Addressing the allegations in public for the first time since his 1996 indictment, Lt. John Walsh Jr. said the claims about him torturing inmate Norvin Lee Fowlks are lies.
Walsh, 37, was asked three times by defense lawyer Terrence M. Connors whether he forced Fowlks to display his penis and then stomped on it.
"No, I did not!" Walsh bellowed all three times, turning to face the jury as he spoke.
Walsh said he weighs 395 pounds now, and weighed close to that amount during the alleged torture incidents, which were reported by other witnesses to have occurred in 1991. If Walsh really had stomped on the prisoner's penis, Fowlks would have suffered severe permanent injuries, Walsh's attorneys said. In fact, Fowlks didn't even seek medical attention after the alleged incidents, testified Dr. John Fernandez, a physician who sees prisoners at the jail.
Jurors are expected to begin deliberations on the case today after closing arguments by Connors and Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Campana. The bizarre trial began last week before District Judge John T. Curtin.
The case is believed to be the first criminal civil-rights charge ever pursued in Western New York against a jail or prison official.
A fellow jail deputy and two former deputies testified last week that they saw Walsh, on three occasions, torture Fowlks by making him display his penis and then stomping on it with steel-toed boots.
On two of those occasions, the witnesses said, Walsh forced Fowlks to drape his penis over the horizontal bars of his jail cell before stepping on it. On the third occasion, a witness claimed Walsh went into Fowlks' cell and forced him to stretch his penis across the floor, then "mashed" it with his foot.
Fowlks, 34, an African-American from Albion who is mentally disturbed, has been in the jail numerous times after misdemeanor arrests. His family claims Orleans County jail guards have menaced and tortured him numerous times, calling him racist names.
The Buffalo FBI office is investigating other allegations of wrongdoing at the jail.
Sheriff's Department officials denied torturing Fowlks, saying they only took necessary steps to discipline him when he became violent or threatened people.
"My brother has problems, but he should be in a mental facility, not in that jail," said Carol Fowlks-Zangas, who has watched the entire trial. i Walsh has been suspended, with pay, since his indictment in January of last year, Connors said.
The Fowlks family also has a $5 million civil rights suit pending against the Orleans County Sheriff's Department.