TEXARKANA, Texas -Opening statements and testimony are scheduled to begin Monday in a civil case involving a man who claims he was beaten and permanently disabled in 2018 while in Bowie County custody for a misdemeanor.
The complaint filed in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas by Texarkana lawyer David Carter alleges William Scott Jones was beaten and denied medical treatment in the downtown Texarkana jail after being arrested the night of July 17, 2018, by Texarkana, Texas, police for a class C misdemeanor, "walking in the roadway." Such misdemeanor offenses are punishable by a fine and do not result in jail time if there is a conviction. Speeding is a class C misdemeanor.
At the time of Jones' arrest, the Bowie County jail was managed by LaSalle Corrections. LaSalle managed operations at the jail from February 2013 until February of this year.
When Jones was released from jail the afternoon of July 19, 2018, he was wheeled out in a restraint chair by jail staff, according to the complaint. Jones spent the next month as a patient in Wadley Regional Medical Center where he underwent surgery for his damaged colon. He was diagnosed with acute renal failure, severe dehydration, "ischemic colitis caused by blunt force trauma," multiple facial and rib fractures, sepsis, pneumonia, blood clots and other maladies related to a delay in receiving treatment, according to the complaint.
He must now wear an ostomy bag because of the damage to his colon and his medical expenses. (The to date total is more than $1 million.) Jones cannot recall what happened to him during his less than 48-hour stay in the Bowie County jail.
Carter filed a motion in November seeking a default judgment in the case for spoliation of evidence related to surveillance footage which, if available, might have captured when, where and how Jones suffered his injuries if they occurred in the jail as alleged. Carter argued in his motion that former Warden James McCormick was on notice to preserve the video well in advance of the time period during which the surveillance system would record over the footage from the time Jones was incarcerated. Carter argued that the video was intentionally made unavailable.
LaSalle has argued that Jones was intoxicated at the time he was booked into jail, that he caused his own injuries and that his medical problems predated his July 2018 arrest.
LaSalle's lawyer, Paul Miller of Texarkana, argued in briefings and in court that the video was lost or overwritten unintentionally.
Miller and Carter declined to comment on the upcoming trial or the issue of missing video.
Carter argues in court filings that the intentional destruction of critical evidence should result in a default judgment against the defendants and in favor of Jones. U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder III issued a ruling March 25 on Carter's motion regarding the missing video.
While Schroeder's order shows that the court finds the loss of evidence "troubling," it ruled that negligence, not a purposeful intent to deprive the plaintiffs of the video, might explain the missing footage.
Schroeder's order notes that LaSalle received a letter from Carter to preserve the video well before the time it was overwritten and lost, that LaSalle's own policy requires preservation of video when a detainee is seriously injured and that LaSalle and McCormick are well aware of the importance of video because of prior lawsuits.
"Finally, this is not the first time LaSalle Defendants have faced such a lawsuit. Two suits for wrongful deaths based on inadequate medical care in violation of (civil rights statutes) were brought against LaSalle Defendants prior to Plaintiff's incarceration," Schroeder's order states.
The order refers to the 2015 death of Michael Sabbie. Jail video in Sabbie's case showed a use of force by jail staff and that Sabbie was not decontaminated after being doused with pepper spray and put into his cell. Also referenced in the order is the 2016 death of Morgan Angerbauer. Video in Angerbauer's case showed that a nurse failed to call 911 for 45 minutes after Angerbauer, who was diabetic, was found unresponsive in her cell and that she was unable to stand or walk on her own at the time she was placed in a medical observation cell.
"LaSalle Defendants' behavior here is troubling in view of the warden's actual knowledge, the warden's direction that resulted in selectively preserved video footage favorable to LaSalle Defendants' defense and the timing of Plaintiff counsel's preservation letter and LaSalle counsel's response," Schroeder's order states.
LaSalle preserved video of Jones during the jail booking process which LaSalle argues shows Jones was intoxicated and could have injured himself by falling.
Schroeder ruled in his March 25 order that Carter can address the missing video at trial.
"The Court believes that the jury should hear evidence and argument from the parties on what happened to the pertinent video footage," Schroeder's order states.
A jury was chosen to decide the case April 26. The trial is expected to last about a week.