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'Crunching sound': Gay prisoner sues after inmate bites off part of his nose

AP

This photo provided by the Kentucky Equality Federation shows the injury to former Warren County Regional Jail inmate Brandon Milam's nose when he was attacked. A lawsuit Milam filed Tuesday claims that he lost his sense of smell and has to undergo extensive reconstructive surgery.

A gay man sued a Kentucky jail and a fellow inmate Tuesday, saying the other prisoner bit off part of his nose after harassing him for days.

The suit says that Brandon Milam, of Bowling Green, Ky., was sitting on his bed on July 2 when Timothy Schwartz, the other inmate, approached him, pinned him against the wall and began punching his face.

Milam, 26, said that he “heard a crunching sound as Defendant Schwartz bit part of (his) nose off, severing it from (his) face,” the suit claims. “Schwartz then spit the piece of (his) nose out onto the floor.”


Milam said he was disfigured, lost his sense of smell and was still in pain from the July attack in the Warren County Regional Jail, according to his lawsuit. 

Read the lawsuit (.pdf)

 Milam also claims that Schwartz, 41, and other inmates used gay slurs and threatened him for about a week before Schwartz bit off his nose. The men had been placed in a single cell with about 14 other men, according to the suit.

The severed piece of nose was found by another inmate. Doctors at a hospital in Nashville, Tenn., tried to reattach it but were unsuccessful, the lawsuit said. Now Milam faces a series of reconstructive surgeries that could cost $26,000, according to The Daily News in Bowling Green.

"It's a real tragedy that this would happen in a protective custody setting, this outrageously violent act," M. Austin Mehr, one of Milam's attorneys, said this week. "It was just like an animal."

"I was also called queer several times," Milam said, according to a statement released by the Kentucky Equality Federation. "I was in jail for a probation violation over a shoplifting charge. I wasn't a flight risk and I had no violent history."

The Kentucky advocacy group has assisted Milam in his suit and has urged federal authorities to pursue a case against Schwartz as a hate crime.

"The deliberate indifference that the jail facility seemed to maintain when placing Mr. Milam in the cell with the attackers while being aware of his sexual orientation opens them to civil liability," attorney Jillian Hall, vice president of legal for Kentucky Equality Federation, said in the statement.

The advocacy group says there has been a "growing trend" of gay inmates being harassed by Kentucky law enforcement. 

Schwartz was indicted on an assault charge and has pleaded not guilty. He was in jail for an alleged scheme to forge signatures of family members of disabled people, file false Medicaid claims and charge Medicaid for services not provided, according to the News. He remains in jail. His attorney, Walter Hawkins, did not immediately return a call.

Milam was jailed for violating his probation for a guilty plea to felony theft, the suit said. He has since been placed on house arrest.

This article includes reporting by NBC's Isolde Raftery and The Associated Press.

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