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Lawsuit: Elmore, Minn., youth correctional facility failed to protect teen who was badly beaten

January 12, 2018 GMT

A teen who was left bloodied and with a badly broken jaw after a beating inside a for-profit youth correctional facility in the southern Minnesota town of Elmore is now suing officials whom he said failed to protect him after repeated threats from a fellow inmate.

According to a federal lawsuit filed this week in the U.S. District of Minnesota, officials at the since-shuttered Elmore Academy knew that the facility was not adequately staffed to take additional inmates when a Faribault County sheriffs deputy brought Cullen Kennedy, then 14, for intake after his arrest for fleeing police in 2012.

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During Kennedys first full day at Elmore Academy, the complaint said, an inmate who was a believed gang member ordered him to attack other inmates in exchange for drugs, money and sex with female inmates. When Kennedy refused, the inmate threatened that he and his fellow gang members would kill Kennedys father, reciting his name and home address to underscore the threat, the complaint said.

Kennedy described the threats to a judge and other officials the next day, and the judge ordered that he stay at Elmore Academy. However, according to the complaint, Faribault County Attorney Troy Timmerman and a Department of Corrections official agreed to a plan to provide for Kennedys safety at the center.

But Kennedy alleges that Elmore Academy staff did nothing to protect him, instead returning him to the general population. He was soon beaten by inmates until they were too tired to continue the assault, the complaint said.

Kennedys jaw was broken on both sides so that the middle portion was hanging loose, the complaint said, and his injuries required metal plate implants to both sides of his head. The attack prompted Faribault and Martin Counties both also named in the suit to stop sending teens to Elmore Academy, and the inmate who led the beating later pleaded guilty to assaulting Kennedy.

He needed help more than anything else and was a kid who did not belong being incarcerated with the types of individuals he was incarcerated with, said Jeff Storms, an attorney for Kennedy, in an interview on Thursday.

Storms said the lawsuit would show that Youth Services International entities repeatedly housed kids needing social services alongside violent offenders under the supervision of understaffed and undertrained staffs.

Representatives for Youth Services International Holdings, Inc., a Delaware corporation that owned Elmore Academy until its 2014 closure, could not be reached for comment. Described in the lawsuit as a for-profit prison system for children, Elmore Academy operated separate units licensed by the state corrections and human services departments to treat youths housed for either criminal, mental health or other protective purposes.

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Elmore is located in far southern Minnesota, just north of the Iowa border and about 50 miles directly south of Mankato.

Kennedy is seeking monetary damages from Youth Services International, five Elmore Academy officials, five guards referred to in the suit as John Does, and from Faribault and Martin Counties. His lawsuit also points to other federal cases brought against Youth Services International facilities across the country that date to 1997.

Elmore Academys parent company, Youth Services International, Inc., dissolved in October 2017, according to court documents.

Stephen Montemayor 612-673-1755

Twitter: @smontemayor