The newly released video of an attack at the Marathon County jail has provoked a strong reaction from a citizens' panel investigating security at the facility. Panel members say the attack appeared to have been coordinated.
36-year-old Marathon County corrections officer Julie Christiansen is still hospitalized following the brutal March 27 attack at the jail. This week, the citizens' panel saw the video for the first time. In it, suspect Fredrick Morris hits Christiansen in the head. She falls backwards, hard onto the cement floor, as other inmates cheer him on. Deputy Chad Billeb said they were chanting for her to die: "The whole time they were chanting about hurting her more. 'Hope she dies.'"
Businessman Paul Jones, the chair of the citizens' panel, said the attack looked coordinated.
"You had people that appeared to be cheering the aggressor on. Would you have walked into that room, watching those inmates behave in that manner? Probably not. What I saw was a battlefield."
Panel member Mike Beck, publisher of the Wausau Daily Herald, said the incident raises serious questions about the Sheriff's Department.
"At this stage of the game, after seeing all of this, I don't trust anybody administratively."
Beck's paper ran an exposé of former Sheriff Randy Hoenisch, showing that he spent long stretches of time away from his office. Hoenisch resigned soon after the story was published. After the attack, the jail administrator also resigned. Jones says he believes things will improve with newly appointed Sheriff Scott Parks.
"We just lacked leadership, because the symptoms would not be there, the complaints wouldn't be there if there was consistent, strong leadership through the organization."
Jones says one of the panel's goals is to improve the poor morale among corrections officers at the jail.