Cincinnati, OH – A former Hamilton County sheriff’s sergeant who was fired and charged after he kicked an inmate who bit him was acquitted in a bench trial on Friday.
The incident occurred on June 9, 2020 in the Hamilton County Justice Center when deputies were processing a drunk and belligerent inmate, WLWT reported.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Nick Ballachino was being booked into the jail on charges of disorderly conduct while intoxicated and obstructing official business, WXIX reported.
Deters said that Ballachino “became combative” while the officers were trying to process him and they had to take him to the ground in an effort to subdue him.
The prosecutor said that as deputies were trying to get the handcuffed man under control, Ballachino bit then-Hamilton County Sheriff’s Sergeant Jesse Franklin in the foot, WXIX reported.
Surveillance video from the jail showed that Sgt. Franklin kicked the inmate once in the head immediately after Ballachino bit him.
Ballachino was transported to University of Cincinnati Medical Center for evaluation after the incident, treated, and released back to the jail, WXIX reported.
Court records showed that he was later convicted of the obstructing official business charge but the disorderly conduct charge was dismissed.
Then-Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neal suspended Sgt. Franklin’s police powers as soon as he found out about the incident and ordered an investigation, WXIX reported.
Sheriff Neal told reporters when he fired Sgt. Franklin that the internal investigation had determined the deputy used excessive force by kicking the handcuffed inmate.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil says Sergeant Jesse Franklin has been fired for use of excessive force.
Franklin was seen on security video kicking Nicholas Ballachino in the head while he was handcuffed. pic.twitter.com/uDXlIAiW7P
— Christian Hauser (@ChristianWKRC12) July 15, 2020
“As Sheriff of Hamilton County, I am outraged and shocked by this egregious conduct. These actions are inconsistent with our training and will not be tolerated under my watch,” the sheriff said at the time.
Then the former sheriff’s sergeant was indicted on charges of misdemeanor assault for kicking the man who bit him, WXIX reported.
BREAKING: Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announce the misdemeanor assault indictment of Hamilton County Sheriff Sergeant Jesse Franklin for a June 9 assault of an inmate Nick Ballachino in the Hamilton county justice center. Press release below @WCPO pic.twitter.com/wkhQO6Y3lo
— Courtney Francisco (@CFranciscoWCPO) July 2, 2020
Cincinnati prosecutors had asked Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Bernie Bouchard last summer to dismiss the assault charge because they were unable to find a use-of-force expert who would testify for the prosecution.
“The case was a travesty from the start and he never should have been indicted,” former Sgt. Franklin’s attorney Mike Allen told WXIX.
The judge agreed.
On Jan. 21, Bouchard found the former Hamilton County sheriff’s sergeant not guilty in a bench trial, WXIX reported.
“The use of force by Sgt. Franklin in this particular situation did not rise to the level of a crime,” the judge said.
Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. Jesse Franklin is facing misdemeanor assault for this June 9th assault of inmate Nick Ballachino. The video was just released by the prosecutor's office @FOX19
Warning: Excessive violence. pic.twitter.com/Cx9v7PM1CX
— Trevor Peters (@TrevorPetersTV) July 2, 2020
But the acquittal doesn’t mean the legal problems are over for the former law enforcement officer.
Ballachino filed a federal lawsuit against former Sgt. Franklin in July of 2021 that alleged the sergeant had violated his civil rights, WXIX reported.
He also named the sheriff’s department and the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners in his lawsuit.
The complaint alleged then-Sgt. Franklin used excessive force because of the policies and customs of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, WXIX reported.
“Defendants Hamilton County and former Sheriff Neil had knowledge prior to this incident of committed similar acts by Defendant Officers, particularly numerous incidents committed by Defendant Franklin. Defendants Hamilton County and former Sheriff Neil have refused or otherwise failed to adequately discipline all individual deputies involved in this incident,” the lawsuit read.
The former sheriff’s sergeant is also facing a civil lawsuit from Ballachino, WXIX reported.
That trial is scheduled to begin in September.