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Federal lawsuit filed against sheriff

Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley and seven jail staff members have been named in a federal lawsuit. The suit, filed Pro Se by former county detainee Elgie Sanders, claims violation of the right to receive medical care as well as racial discrimination.

Staley deferred questions about the suit to county attorney Geoff Thompson, but remarked Friday that such lawsuits are to be expected. “We want to avoid [being sued], but when you consider what we have to deal with day in and day out it’s bound to happen sooner or later,” he said.

As of deadline, Thompson had not responded to the county’s status on the lawsuit.

A Sheriff’s Office response to a Freedom of Information request, included in the federal complaint, concerning the alleged incident states that “No video or report exist concerning Mr. Sanders for September 2, 2013.” Neither is there video or a report concerning a seperate incident involving another county detainee that the complaint uses for a supporting claim.

The suit was filed Pro Se in federal court on Nov. 25 and was assigned to Chief Judge Brian S. Miller, and referred to Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe. “Pro Se” means to act on one’s own behalf.

The 43-page, handwritten complaint asks for a compensatory award of $250,000 from Staley for failing to inform, train and supervise the jail staff in proper policies and procedures for treatment of diabetics; and $50,000 from each of the jail staff named in the suit for failing to follow proper protocol and for “knowingly and willingly performing duties above and beyond their training,” which “resulted in substantial harm…”

The jail staff members are listed as jail administrators K.Able and Mike Ackers; and jailors Robert Hawkins, J Dillon and Jimmy Williamson and others listed as Raymond, Wilson, Tyler and Gray as well “Does” 1 – 2, Jane Doe jailor, and Jailor “Rock” or “Brock.”

In his filing, Sanders, now an inmate at the Arkansas Department of Correction, East Arkansas Unit at Brickeys, calls for injunctions requiring the county to immediately “install and maintain” qualified nurses or physicians at the jail, or “at least on call … with a quick response time to ensure treatment of medical emergencies without delay.”

Also asked is establishment of a six- to eight-hour interval treatment program for diabetics held at the jail, and to establish a training program for jail personnel on the needs of diabetics.

The complaint alleges that the jail staff knew Sanders is a Type I diabetic yet “was deprived of his insilin [sic] for three days and went into diabetic shock, and only with help of his cellmates was he able to call for help.”

By the time aid was given he “was in full diabetic coma with glucose readings near zero…when tested.”

The complaint adds a racial aspect, saying that the reason the staff reacted indifferently to him is because he is black. The complaint alleges that in a separate incident, a white prisoner with less severe diabetic conditions had been transported to a hospital.

The complaint claims the jail staff acted beyond their training, “By pouring liquids in [Sanders’] mouth and forcing glucose gel in [Sanders’] mouth” while he was unconscious and unresponsive.

The actions of the staff were a violation of the Eight Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and “clear racial discrimination,” the complaint states.

The complaint includes statements from other prisoners, as well as copies of grievances submitted by Sanders, the inmate intake sheet detailing Sanders’ diabetes, hospital forms a response from the sheriff’s office on a Freedom of Information request.

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