Officer shot in inmate escape sues prison company

Published 3:08 am Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Nashville police officer who was seriously wounded when police said he was shot by an escaped inmate filed a lawsuit Friday against the company that runs the prison where the convicted robber was housed.

Sgt. Mark Chesnut was shot in the abdomen in June after he pulled over Joseph Jackson, the escaped convict, and Cortney Logan, of Louisville, Ky., who police said assisted in the escape.

Both have been indicted on attempted murder charges.

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Chesnut’s attorney, David Raybin, said the lawsuit filed in Nashville alleges negligence on the part of Corrections Corporation of America in the escape of Jackson on June 25 during a doctor’s visit away from the Delta Correctional Facility.

Steven Owen, a spokesman for the Nashville-based prison operator, said that it has not yet been served with a lawsuit and would not comment.

Chesnut and his wife are asking for compensatory damages of up to $16.5 million.

The lawsuit reveals new details about the escape by Jackson, who was serving a life sentence at Greenwood, Miss., prison for two aggravated robberies and aggravated assault.

Jackson was told about his scheduled appointment with an eye doctor two weeks in advance by a nurse who worked at the prison, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit said Jackson had unrestricted access to a telephone that allowed him to plan the escape with Logan.

Raybin said CCA was responsible for the inmate and they failed to comply with standards of care in the correctional industry.

“You don’t tell an inmate or give the inmate certain information that he’s going to be at a certain location away from the prison a week or two advance because that gives him time to orchestrate an escape, which is precisely what he did,” Raybin said.

Jackson was taken to the appointment by two unarmed male guards and a female guard armed with a .38 caliber handgun that was later used in the officer’s shooting.

Police have said Logan, a convicted robber, entered the office and fired a shot into the air. The lawsuit claims the female guard first tried to reach to her cell phone and Jackson took her gun.

The two were driving on Interstate 40 near Nashville when Chesnut pulled them over for a routine traffic stop. As he was checking the tags on the rental car and Logan’s license, police said Jackson walked up and opened fire from the passenger side.

Chesnut was wearing a bullet-resistant vest but was wounded in the abdomen through a part of his body that was unprotected.

According to the lawsuit, Chesnut put the car in reverse and was able to call for help and give a description of the two men and their vehicle. The two were quickly arrested.

Chesnut was in critical condition at Vanderbilt University Medical Center after the shooting and placed on a ventilator. He has since returned home and is scheduled to return to light duty on Monday, Raybin said.