- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Elko County Sheriff Jim Pitts said Wednesday an internal investigation into a former county jail inmate’s claims that he was nearly beaten to death by three other inmates in 2012 determined that the accuser was the perpetrator, not the victim of the jailhouse fight.

Pitts also denied allegations in the inmate’s lawsuit against the county that sheriff’s officials tampered with the jail surveillance tape so as to try to cover up the alleged beating.

Former inmate Ryan Fosmo is seeking more than $50,000 in damages in a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing jail guards of idly standing by while the other inmates beat him on Sept. 10, 2012.

Fosmo was “basically a caged animal fighting to stay alive,” Elko attorney Gregory Corn wrote in the lawsuit on behalf of the 40-year-old man who was released on parole in April after serving a sentence for being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.

Pitts told The Associated Press on Wednesday has not formally been served any papers in connection with the lawsuit so he could not comment fully. But he said his office investigated the incident and is confident the surveillance tape was not altered.

“The internal investigation found he was the suspect and not the victim,” Pitts said.

The lawsuit states that although the videotape had been altered, enough of the attack was captured to prove three other inmates - one of them currently serving a prison sentence for murder - lured Fosmo into a cell, slammed the door shut and severely beat him, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Reno on Sept. 10.

Corn told AP on Tuesday he knows the surveillance tape exists because he saw part of it during Fosmo’s sentencing hearing in Elko County District Court in October 2012. He said he intends to file a motion soon asking U.S. District Judge Miranda Du to issue an order to “freeze and take possession” of the videotape.

The footage was “intentionally adulterated by the defendants … to decrease, eliminate and/or hide the totality of what should have otherwise been on the video had portions of it not been altered or eliminated,” the lawsuit states.

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