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Old 05-16-2002, 07:44 PM
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Post $1 million Suit Alleges Beating of Inmate

$1 million suit alleges beating of inmate


By STEVE E. SWENSON, Californian staff writer
e-mail: sswenson@bakersfield.com Wednesday May 15,
2002, 11:14:34 PM A $1 million lawsuit has been filed
in federal court alleging Kern County sheriff's
officers severely beat a man with a mental disability
in the jail a year ago.The suit, filed May 10 by
Bakersfield attorney Kathleen Faulkner on behalf of
James Jeffrey Owen, 37, also alleges officers are not
adequately trained to deal with inmates that have
mental problems.A deputy, Lance Grimes, and three
other detention officers or deputies allegedly without
provocation hit, kicked and twisted the arm of Owen on
May 14, 2001, in the booking area of the downtown
jail, the suit says.The officers allegedly stomped him
with such force as to remove a metal plate from his
collarbone, the suit says.Owen has permanently lost
the use of his left arm as a result of the injury,
says the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District
Court in Fresno.However, sheriff's investigation
reports in a court file on the incident give no
indication anything happened. Owen was in jail on
misdemeanor charges of loitering and public
drunkenness. He was not represented by a defense
attorney at either hearing, according to court
records.He was in court two days after the alleged
beating to plead innocent to the charges. And he
returned to court 16 days later and pleaded no contest
to the charges. The record of those appearances
doesn't indicate any medical issues.Jail officials
said they could not comment on whether Owen sought
medical attention for this incident during the 20 days
he was in the jail.He did seek medical treatment in
prison, where he went for a parole violation after his
jail term was finished, attorney Faulkner said. The
lawsuit alleges Owen's injuries were compounded
because the jail staff was deliberately indifferent to
obtaining medical care for him.Sheriff's officials
can't comment on the specifics of the case, but all
inmates have to do is to ask for medical care and they
will be referred to a nurse, Cmdr. Don Allen said.Even
if inmates don't ask, officers refer inmates to a
nurse or hospital care if they see an injury, Allen
said.

So far this year, there have been 108,000
referrals for medical care from inmates, nurses at
Kern Medical Center said.That's everything from a
scrape to a serious medical problem, the nurses said.
The Lerdo and downtown jails hold about 2,800
inmates.A complaint alleging brutality was filed on
Owen's behalf with the Sheriff's Department, Cmdr.
Brad Wilbert confirmed.The investigation remains
pending because Owen won't talk to investigators about
what happened or who was involved, Wilbert said.And a
review of four felony cases among 15 criminal cases
filed against Owen since 1989 shows virtually no
indication Owen has a mental problem.Owen's criminal
history includes drug, theft, forgery and alcohol
offenses.Defendants with mental problems typically
have a motion to declare them mentally incompetent to
stand trial, but no such motion could be found in the
felony or several of Owen's misdemeanor cases.Once in
1999 a defense attorney asked for a confidential
psychiatric examination of Owen because she thought he
had a mental disorder. But seven days later he pleaded
no contest to felony theft and no mental defense was
offered.Transcripts of sentencing hearings in the
court file indicate Owen gave appropriate answers to
questions by judges about his rights.Owen has a mental
disability for which he is receiving Social Security
income, Faulkner said.He's been diagnosed as bipolar,
the lawsuit says.Bipolar disorder, or manic
depression, is a brain disorder that causes extreme
shifts in mood, energy and functioning, according to
the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.It affects
2.3 million adult Americans, or 1.2 percent of the
population. Bipolar disorder is characterized by
episodes of mania and depression that can last from
days to months, the alliance reported.

Sheriff deputies
and detention officers are trained to deal with
suspects with mental problems, Assistant Sheriff Mike
LeFave said. Psychiatric technicians are among the
staff in the jail, he said.The lawsuit names as
defendants Kern County, Sheriff Carl Sparks, Grimes,
the Board of Supervisors and up to 100 unnamed people.
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  #2  
Old 05-16-2002, 08:53 PM
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that is so sad that people had to endure this kind of torcure in a place that is suppost to stop that. I pray that he wins.
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  #3  
Old 05-17-2002, 02:49 AM
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I hope he'll win it too...the things people do to others...
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