Richland County pays $750,000 in beating

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Richland County is paying $750,000 to settle a lawsuit after the beating of a handcuffed, homeless inmate in the county jail.

Robert Sweeper III suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs and broken vertebrae in the 2012 attack, The State newspaper reported.

Officials said guards left him in his cell for five days before medics were called to take him to the hospital. One guard, 38-year-old Robin Smith, was sentenced to two years in prison. Six other officers were fired.

Sweeper had been arrested on trespassing charges and was placed in a suicide watch cell after authorities said he was incoherent before the assault.

Attorney Dick Harpootlian said Sweeper is in a facility in Charleston recovering from physical and mental issues related to the beating.

The settlement is more than twice the amount of a state limit of $300,000 the county could be liable for if a state jury considered the lawsuit. Richland County officials decided to pay the higher amount because the case could have been moved to federal court, with the potential for a higher award.

"If this were moved to federal court, we could be exposing Richland County to a multimillion-dollar jury award," said Councilman Seth Rose.

"We also had to take into account we would also be spending a large amount of money in attorneys' fees defending what is basically an indefensible act by some employees," Rose said.