The New York Times is reporting on an in-custody death lawsuit being handled by Budge & Heipt. The case relates to the death of Michael Sabbie who died in the Bi-State Jail on the border of Texas and Arkansas:
When Michael Sabbie was booked into jail by the Arkansas police on a misdemeanor assault charge in July 2015, he warned nurses there about his ailments — heart disease, high blood pressure and asthma — and told them he needed medication.
Less than three days later, Mr. Sabbie was dead on the floor of his cell. Videos captured his rapidly deteriorating health in the hours before his death as he pleaded with corrections officers for help. At least 19 times he could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe” — at one point as he crawled, gasping for air, while guards watched him through his cell door.
A federal lawsuit filed by his family on Wednesday accuses at least 12 corrections officers and nurses at a for-profit jail on the Texas-Arkansas border of causing his death. The lawsuit claims that the employees at the jail, the Bi-State Justice Center in Bowie County, Tex., showed a “deliberate indifference” to his health and ignored obvious signs of his declining condition.
Mr. Sabbie was deprived of his medication and was written up for “creating a disturbance” by saying he was ill, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
“You have clearly untrained detention staff who are misusing their power and ignoring someone’s pleas for help and his repeated statement that he can’t breathe,” Erik Heipt, a lawyer for the family, said in an interview on Wednesday.
But Mr. Sabbie was taken back to the Bi-State Justice Center instead. During his return to his cell, a security camera in a hallway recorded him leaning against a wall to catch his breath. When he appeared to turn back down the hall, guards tackled him to the ground.
A jail employee with a hand-held camera recorded the ensuing struggle between Mr. Sabbie and five guards who were trying to pull his hands behind his back. “I can’t breathe; I can’t breathe,” he said before another guard used pepper spray on him.
The video shows Mr. Sabbie breathing heavily over the next nine minutes as corrections officers drag him to the nurse’s station and then into a shower. After he collapses in the shower, guards pick him up and pull him into his cell as his orange pants fall below his waist. Mr. Sabbie can be seen rolling on the floor and wiping his face with his shirt before the recording stops.
He was found dead the next morning, sprawled on the floor of his cell.
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