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Rough justice: An innocent man recalls his jailhouse beating

LONDON, ONT – London resident Jeremy Sippel was “just like anybody” walking down the street, he says, when he found himself under arrest in June, 2013, accused of abducting a child and sent to the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre.

He spent three weeks in jail before being exonerated.

“[Jail] was all new to me. I didn’t have the slightest clue,” he said.

“As soon as I walked in the door a guard walked by and made a comment, ‘Oh you’re Jeremy Sippel. You’re famous around here,'” he recalls the guard saying. “It really didn’t mean anything to me at the time but it made sense to me after.”

READ MORE: The human cost of Ontario’s crowded, violent jails

Hours after being brought to the jail, Sippel says, he was swarmed by a group of inmates who had seen his photo in the news. They’d been waiting for him, he says.

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The beating left Sippel in hospital for three days.

“I’ll always have the two plates in my jaw, and talk with a lisp. It feels like I have a permanent wad of chewing tobacco in my mouth from the scar tissue.”

Five of the six inmates charged with assault causing bodily harm have pleaded guilty.

Sippel doesn’t remember all the details of the attack. He had to get the story afterwards by an inmate who witnessed the event.

“I had an abrasion on the back of my head that didn’t make sense. I was told that after I was attacked and left for a while they threw me into a laundry bin,” Sippel said.

“Eventually, after some time, the guards decided to come and told me to get the f*** out of their laundry bin.”

He said that’s when he stumbled to his feet before falling and hitting his head, resulting in an injury that required four staples.

READ MORE: Ontario’s short-staffed jails face chronic lockdowns, staff, inmates say

Sippel is suing the province for $2 million over his treatment at the prison. The claim alleges a breach of of Sippel’s Charter rights – including “a breach of the right to be free from cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.” 

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A spokesperson for the Ministry of Correctional Services told Global News “it would be inappropriate to provide comment” as this is an ongoing legal matter.

One of the hardest parts of his ordeal, Sippel said, is undoing the damage done by the original charges filed against him.

“I have nothing to hide.But it is also hard talking about it because if I met someone who was arrested it would affect my opinion of them,” he said.

“It’s[an] exhausting, neverending battle that with everybody you meet, you have to convince them you’re not somebody you aren’t.”

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