MOUNT PLEASANT, MI — A former Isabella County Jail correctional officer charged with breaking an inmate’s kneecap and waiting hours for help is one step closer to a jury.

The preliminary examination of Christopher E. Cluley, 46, concluded Wednesday, June 15, with Isabella County District Judge Sara Spencer-Noggel binding the defendant to the circuit court for his trial. The hearing took place over several days, beginning in November and continuing into March.

Since October, Cluley has faced two counts of misconduct in office and one count of aggravated assault. The former is a five-year felony while the latter is a one-year misdemeanor.

“This case is the result of our Public Integrity Team reviewing Mr. Cluley’s conduct to ensure that the Oath to Protect and Serve has not been neglected,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. , whose office is pursuing the case. “We look forward to going to trial.”

Lawyer based in Troy John Freeman represents Cluley and said he was disappointed the case was tied up rather than dismissed by Judge Spencer-Noggel. In his eyes, the case has wider ramifications for law enforcement.

“The case itself is one that every law enforcement officer and corrections officer in the state of Michigan should pay attention to,” Freeman said. “What this shows is a willingness by the Attorney General’s office to use employer policies as the basis for a five-year felony charge just because someone is a public servant. The policies they use are internal, departmental policies that do not have the force of law.

According to an affidavit attached to court records, Cluley on April 12, 2020, was working as a sergeant in the jail when he assaulted an inmate.

Cluley interacted with an inmate during a cell transfer, following a verbal disagreement between the inmate and another officer.

Video footage showed Cluley forcibly leading the inmate down a hallway to solitary, pushing him through a door. The inmate lost his balance and fell forward onto his knees, breaking his left kneecap, or patella, the affidavit states.

The inmate screamed loudly in pain but Cluley left him lying on the floor for two and a half hours before getting him treatment, the affidavit says.

Cluley then lied in a report, writing that the inmate clenched his fists and came towards him. Cluley also wrote that he used no force against the inmate, the affidavit states.

Cluley violated five agency policies through his conduct — use of force, unusual incident reporting, emergency health care, inmate discipline and inmate rights, according to the affidavit.

“What you have here is the executive branch of the state government coming in and saying, ‘We’re going to use this internal policy and this is going to be the basis of a five-year crime,'” Freeman said. . “Things are hard enough for law enforcement these days and it could very well have a chilling effect on law enforcement’s ability to do their job and protect the public and themselves. “

Freeman also took issue with how Cluley’s actions were characterized in the affidavit. Cluley was transferring the inmate to an administrative segregation cell to maintain order in the facility when the inmate planted his feet and refused to move, Freeman said.

“Mr. Cluley pushed (the inmate) to move him,” Freeman said. “During this, (the inmate) fell to the ground. it was my belief that contributed to his downfall.

After the inmate fell, Cluley quickly informed the prison nurse that she would have to watch him once he calmed down, Freeman said. Only a short period of time passed between the inmate’s fall and when Cluley spoke to the nurse, he said.

“There was absolutely no intention on Christopher Cluley’s part to hurt (the inmate),” Freeman said. “His intention was to maintain order. The idea that he delayed (get help) is completely inaccurate.

Cluley was placed on administrative leave while the Isabella County Sheriff‘s Office conducted an internal investigation.

The Isabella County Sheriff’s Department then contacted Michigan State Police and MSP’s Special Investigations Section completed its own investigation, referring the matter to the Department of the Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit. general.

Isabella County Deputy Sheriff Tom Burns said Cluley was not a prison administrator, unlike other media outlets. Sheriff Mike Main said Cluley was furloughed the morning of the incident. His employment ended when the attorney general’s office issued charges against him, Main said.

Cluley’s next court date is pending.

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