9 Investigates

Woman was almost beaten to death by 4 guards at prison near Ocala, lawsuit alleges

MARION COUNTY, Fla. — A woman serving six years at Lowell Correctional Institution, the nation's largest women's prison, near Ocala, was left quadriplegic after four officers almost beat her to death last month, her family alleges in a federal lawsuit filed earlier this week.

Cheryl Weimar was slammed to the ground and beaten, leaving her with a broken neck, the lawsuit said.

Ryan Andrews, an attorney for Weimar's family, told 9 Investigates' Daralene Jones that Weimar now requires a feeding tube for nourishment and a pen and a written alphabet for communication.

According to the lawsuit, after the initial encounter, Weimar was dragged like a "rag doll" to an area out of the view of cameras.

Andrews said the Florida Department of Corrections refuses to allow him or Weimar's relatives to photograph her injuries.

He said he filed an emergency order Wednesday in hopes that a judge will intervene.

The judge ordered the FDC to say by Friday why it will not allow Andrews or Weimar's relatives to photograph her condition.

If a judge rules in their favor, they could gain access as early as this weekend.

Andrews said Weimar was already psychologically and physically disabled before the incident and had two years left on her sentence.

He said the confrontation began when Weimar complained that pain from a preexisting hip condition would not allow her to clean toilets.

During the dispute, she had "an adverse psychological episode ... as the four officers aggressively approached her and became violent," the lawsuit alleges.

"They should have either safely secured her or brought in medical professionals as they're required to do under their policies," Andrews said.

The FDC refused to publicly disclose the officers' identities but said that they were reassigned to other duties.

"We recognize that preliminary reports from this incident are concerning," Secretary of Corrections Mark Inch said in a statement. "We're committed to examining all the details ... and ensuring appropriate action is taken."

Andrews said he has filed a motion ordering the FDC to preserve all evidence, including whatever video might exist.

"Regardless of whether she's an inmate or not, it's a civil rights issue," he said.

9 Investigates has covered several other high-profile investigations into alleged inmate assaults earlier this year.

In February, two officers at Lowell Correctional Institution were fired and charged with battery after they were accused of assaulting a female inmate.

Brandalyn Jones lost three teeth and suffered permanent injuries to her face during the assault.

Investigators said one of the officers falsified the use of force report to justify his actions.

In July, several officers at Lake Correctional Institution near Clermont were charged when video surfaced showing them beating an inmate.

Investigators said Otis Miller was hit at least 12 times.

A cellphone smuggled into the prison was used to record the incident, and the video was uploaded to YouTube.

Investigators said a supervisor tried to cover up the incident.

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