Meadville Tribune

Local News

September 15, 2012

Area man's civil rights trial could go to trial

MEADVILLE — Though some portions of a Springboro-area man’s civil rights lawsuit against the Crawford County jail and county officials have been dismissed by a judge, the surviving portions of the case may go to trial next year.

The suit filed by Gary Richardson, 60, 24212 N. Center Road, in U.S. District Court in Erie alleges his civil rights were violated while he was a pretrial detainee at the jail in November 2008 because he was denied medications.

Richardson was in the Crawford County jail in November 2008 on a charge of simple assault and three counts of harassment filed by Pennsylvania State Police. He pleaded guilty in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas in May 2009 to simple assault and two counts of harassment.

Richardson was sentenced June 5, 2009, by Crawford County Judge John Spataro to a total of two to 12 months in jail on the simple assault charge to be followed by six months probation. Richardson also was paroled from jail June 5, 2009, by Spataro with credit for two months served, but then had to serve 18 months probation.

The federal civil rights suit claims that since Richardson didn’t receive his medication while being held in the county jail he suffered a seizure, causing him to fall and be injured.

The suit claims Richardson’s civil rights regarding unlawful search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment; cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment; and due process of law under the 14th Amendment were violated due to the jail’s refusal and failure to provide prescribed medications to Richardson and treat and take Richardson for medical treatment in a timely manner.

The suit named the Crawford County Correctional Facility; its warden, Tim Lewis; Deputy Warden Kenneth Saulsbery and staff members; the Crawford County Board of Commissioners at the time —  Morris Waid, Jack Preston and C. Sherman Allen; Interim Healthcare, the jail’s health care provider at the time; and Dr. Richard Moran, who was medical director for the jail at the time.

No dollar amount is specified in the suit, but it asks for compensatory and punitive damages and lost wages as well as attorney fees, costs and expenses.

However, in a court order issued July 12 this year, U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin dismissed some of Richardson’s claims.

Richardson’s 14th Amendment violation claim against all the jail defendants for alleged failure to provide medications and medical treatment was dismissed because Richardson’s claim didn’t allege personal involvement by the defendants.

McLaughlin also dismissed Richardson’s supervisory liability claim against Lewis, Saulsbery, Waid, Preston and Allen because the suit didn’t show each defendant’s personal involvement in allegedly depriving Richardson of his rights.

McLaughlin also dismissed Interim Healthcare and Dr. Moran from the claim that the conditions of Richardson’s confinement at the jail were excessively harsh and/or punitive.

No trial date for the remainder of the suit has been set in U.S. District Court in Erie, but motions by both sides for judgment are due Feb. 20, 2013, and opposition legal briefs to those motions are due by March 15, 2013, according to court records. The case could then be scheduled for trial.

Jeffrey K. Millin, the attorney representing Crawford County, has declined comment on the suit.

The suit claims Richardson told jail personnel he required certain prescription medications including Xanax when he was booked into the jail on Nov. 18, 2008. Xanax is a prescription anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication.

The suit claims Richardson didn’t receive his medications from Nov. 18 through 22, 2008, and began to suffer general weakness and dizziness, and had a staggering gait and headache, with his symptoms worsening.

Richardson made several requests to nursing staff to be taken to the hospital, but was denied, according to the suit. On Nov. 22, 2008, Richardson suffered a seizure, passed out and fell on a concrete floor at the jail, injuring his head, neck, shoulders and right arm, according to the suit.

The suit claims Richardson has suffered “substantial and permanent harms” as a result of not receiving his medications and not being taken to the hospital.

The suit claims Richardson’s Constitutional rights were violated by subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment and by failing to get Richardson adequate medical care and treatment while in the custody of the jail.

The suit claims Richardson’s “right arm was permanently and substantially mutilated and impaired and is no longer amenable to surgical repair.”

Because of his injuries, Richardson can no longer be a bus driver for disabled school children, according to the suit.

The suit claims Richardson also suffered because he wasn’t able to defend himself against the charges brought against him, “but instead was forced to plead guilty to what he did not do because he was so very apprehensive and unable to acquire medical treatment while incarcerated and, by pleading, could thereby otherwise be immediately released.”

The suit claims Richardson was taken to Meadville Medical Center for treatment on Nov. 22, 2008, following his seizure and released about seven hours later, but upon his return to the jail was placed in solitary confinement for a week as a retaliatory punishment.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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