Dona Ana County in New Mexico has agreed to pay Stephen Slevin, 59, $15.5 million after it kept Slevin in solitary confinement for 22 months without a trial for a DUI arrest. The horrific case was made worse by years of litigation by the county, which refused to pay a court verdict that was originally $22 million. One of the most disturbing facts of this case however is that not a single county employee was fired over his grotesque treatment, which included the denial of necessary medical attention.
Slevin was arrested for DUI in August of 2005. He was leaving New Mexico and driving across the country. He had been depressed and his friend loaned him the car. He ended up being put in a padded cell because he was viewed as suicidal. However, after three days for no known reason, he was transferred to solitary confinement where he languished from 2005 to 2007. While there he was denied medical attention and had to pull his own tooth for lack of a dentist. Fungus covered parts of his skin because he was denied showers. He was not allowed out many days for an hour as required for people in solitary confinement. His mental state deteriorated rapidly.
When he was released he was dying from cancer. However, he has beaten predictions of his death despite the county prolonging the litigation and fighting every effort for relief in the courts. Even after a jury awarded him $22 million, the county continued litigation. It was only after a court mediation that it agreed to pay him $15.5 million — a record settlement.
What is truly astonishing is that, despite the horrific and inhumane treatment of this man, not a single county employee will be fired. Indeed, there does not appear to be any backlash for the prison officials and attorneys that contributed to this nightmare in Dona Ana County.
75 thoughts on “New Mexico Man Held 22 Months Without Trial Is Awarded $15.5 Million”
I was put in jail because my wife wanted me there and her new boyfriend is a NM cop. A dirty cop who sells drugs, is anyone surprised? While in jail my shoulder replacement ripped from the bone and they refused me medical care. I am suing the county, sheriff, jail, jail staff the doctor….basically everyone! The judge in this case put a 10K cash only bond after he listened to tapes of me yelling at my adulterous wife. The judge tried this case with the dirty cop and found me ‘guilty’. I am suing and will contact the Attorney General of the State of New Mexico, I hope this person will address this sickening county and censure this judge or put him in jail, or both.
The inhumane treatment goes on and on and won’t stop until these corrupt counties have to pay millions.
Voices from Solitary: A Sentence Worse Than Death
March 11, 2013
I think that one reason for recidivism is that the prisoners see that the Rule of Law is not followed so they figure why should they abide with the law. -kaysieverding
Rule of Law
Last week at Yale Law School, I spoke about America’s two-tiered justice system and the perversion of the rule of law, all of which relates to the issues raised here. Those interested can watch the 40-minute speech and the Q-and-A that follows here:
(Glenn Greenwald at Yale Law School – “With Liberty and Justice for Some”)
Supposedly prisoner rights and ex prisoner rights are under litigated so their stories don’t come out. Supposedly only a small percentage of lawsuits that could be filed are actually filed. US Courts has an on-line magazine and an article in there said they did a study of pro se prisoner lawsuits and found that many of their claims were substantial. I’ve spent a lot of time studying pro se law and I only found one pro se lawsuit in recent years that resulted in a jury trial, which they won. But the rest of them are all dismissed and a lot of people won’t even try.
I think that one reason for recidivism is that the prisoners see that the Rule of Law is not followed so they figure why should they abide with the law.
“I wasn’t sympathetic to prisoners at all until I became one.” -Kay S.
Unfortunately, even tragically, this is true for so many of us. Once it hits home, it’s a different ballgame. We all need to open our eyes or, eventually, they’ll be opened for us.
America. Anyone who believes that it’s “the land of the free” is badly mistaken.
I wasn’t sympathetic to prisoners at all until I became one.
One woman I met was imprisoned for 6 months because she couldn’t come up w bail. She claimed to be a former teacher. She said she had a love affair that went bad so her boyfriend got a restraining order against her. She tried to reduce her expenses by camping out but her campsite was near where he lived so she was arrested. She said he didn’t request it and didn’t have a problem w where she was camping.
Speaking of restraining orders, another woman I met was imprisoned for violating a restraining order that her husband had got against her 5 years before. Since then they reunited, lived together, and had another baby. She was in his car when they were stopped for a traffic violation so she was imprisoned.
Another woman said she had no criminal record and was employed full time. She said her mother had died and her mother’s stuff was put in her garage. It included an unregistered gun that was in a locked safe. Her daughter’s boyfriend tried to hide from the police in her house so they searched it and imprisoned her for having an unregistered gun.
Another woman said she was arrested because someone who came to her house had drugs in their possession. Since it was her house it was considered “in her dominion”.
I met a woman in a federal holding cell who said the entire floor of her apartment building was arrested because there was drug dealing in one apartment so they claimed the other apartments must have known.
Another woman who was in her 50’s and claimed to have no criminal record was a federal prisoner for 6 months until she plea bargained. The feds put a wire tap on her phone and heard her telling someone her son was a dealer. I read an advice column that said you shouldn’t turn in dealers unless they are selling to children.
Indefinite detention is cruel and unusual punishment. When a person is sentenced at least they can plan their time.
Abuse at Guantanamo, abuse at home… Someday the truth will out…
Prisoner protest at Guantánamo Bay stains Obama’s human rights record
More than half of the remaining detainees have been cleared for release. No wonder they’re on hunger strike for their freedom
by Amy Goodman
Thursday 14 March 2013 11.15 EDT
From Guantánamo, Yemeni prisoner Bashir al-Marwalah wrote to his lawyer:
“We are in danger. One of the soldiers fired on one of the brothers a month ago. Before that, they send the emergency forces with M-16 weapons into one of the brothers’ cell blocks … Now they want to return us to the darkest days under Bush. They said this to us. Please do something.”
Al-Marwalah was referring to the first recorded use of rubber bullets being fired at a Guantanamo prisoner by the US military guards there.
According to Pardiss Kebriaei, a senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, her client Ghaleb al-Bihani is one of the Guantánamo prisoners currently on a hunger strike. She told me what al-Bihani related to her:
“There is a large-scale hunger strike in Camp 6, which is the largest of the facilities at Guantánamo. That prison holds about 130 men. He said that almost everyone, except for a few who are sick and elderly, is on strike. He had lost over 20 pounds. He is a diabetic. His blood-glucose levels are fluctuating wildly. He told me that medical staff at Guantánamo has told him his life is in danger. And he and others want us to get the word out about this.”
“I met a woman there who was arrested because her auto registration expired. She said she didn’t have a criminal record and was broke because her young daughter had cancer. The phones there are in the same room prisoners eat and sleep in so I heard her talking with her husband about how he was trying to borrow the $400. It took him a couple of weeks to raise the $400.” -Kay S.
Had she repeatedly been ticketed, Kay? Do you know anything else about her situation?
Are people really being arrested because their cars aren’t registered?
…little surprises me anymore. We’ve become a nation of “trickle-down” abusers and torturers, IMO, having been given the green light after 9/11. Ah, what we’ve become.
Good to revisit the following, especially in light of new reports from Guantanamo.
1) EXCLUSIVE: CIA Psychologist’s Notes Reveal True Purpose Behind Bush’s Torture Program
Tuesday, 22 March 2011 14:29
2) Rorschach and Awe
America’s coercive interrogation methods were reverse-engineered by two C.I.A. psychologists who had spent their careers training U.S. soldiers to endure Communist-style torture techniques. The spread of these tactics was fueled by a myth about a critical “black site” operation.
We’ll find some of the answers, if we ever have the courage to tackle the torture issue, head-on. If not, where we’re headed isn’t good.
The link to this story was posted above by rosienalbany. (Thank you.)
“Records show that critical information, such as Bamenga’s final requests for her medicine and specifics about undelivered doses, were withheld from the public by the agency responsible for investigating inmate deaths in New York, the Commission on Correction, which recommended in its four-page report that Bamenga’s case “be closed as a natural death.”
Federal investigators saw it differently. Missed and incorrect medication dosing were “significant factors that contributed to the decompensation of her congestive heart failure,” wrote a physician hired to investigate by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Her death “could have been prevented.”” -from the article below
Cries for help in her final days
Federal report on death at Albany County jail says care inadequate; medication concerns noted
By Alysia Santo
Updated 7:04 am, Monday, March 11, 2013
In her last days at Albany County Correctional Facility, Irene Bamenga, a French immigrant, wrote her cries for help on a jail medical slip.
“I am not being given the full doses of my medication,” said her note on July 25, 2011. Bamenga’s prescriptions included six different types of pills for her cardiomyopathy, a serious heart condition.
Less then two days later, her heart stopped as she lay in her cell. She was dead, and just like Bamenga’s pleas, the details leading up to her death were silenced.
That’s because a state investigation absolved the jail of blame while simultaneously censoring evidence of medical errors made during her incarceration from their report. An unredacted version of the state’s findings was recently obtained by the Times Union, along with a 154-page federal investigation, which described Bamenga’s care as “inadequate.”
Records show that critical information, such as Bamenga’s final requests for her medicine and specifics about undelivered doses, were withheld from the public by the agency responsible for investigating inmate deaths in New York, the Commission on Correction, which recommended in its four-page report that Bamenga’s case “be closed as a natural death.”
Federal investigators saw it differently. Missed and incorrect medication dosing were “significant factors that contributed to the decompensation of her congestive heart failure,” wrote a physician hired to investigate by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Her death “could have been prevented.”
The tragic story of Bamenga’s final days began at the Canadian border on July 15, 2011. The 29-year-old drove north with her husband, Yodi Zikianda, from their home outside Boston and tried to cross the border to catch a flight back to France. There, she planned to wait for a green card to permit her legal residence in the United States. Immigration officials, citing a visa that had expired six years before, took her into custody, though she was not charged with a crime.
She was first brought to Allegany County Jail, where a booking officer asked if she was on any medication.
“Lots of them,” she replied, according to a report from the jail.
It was a Friday, and records indicate Bamenga didn’t receive any of her medications until Monday. By Wednesday, she was enroute to the Albany County jail to await deportation to France.
Bamenga expressed concern about her health. At her suicide prevention screening at Albany jail, the box with “Detainee is very worried about major problems other than legal situation” is marked “yes” noting “medical issues.”
Those worries would only worsen as she missed four doses of her night medication while at the Albany County jail; a nurse wrote “NS” for “no show” in her chart.
This alarmed a physician hired by ICE to investigate. “Was she sleeping and not aroused for those doses? Did the nursing staff recognize the severity of her disease and make any attempts to ensure medication compliance? I saw no documentation of such efforts,” wrote the doctor, whose name was redacted from the federal report.
The 8th Amendment prohibits excessive bail. I was never accused of a federal offense but I was held as a federal prisoner without a bail hearing. I was in a contract jail in Georgetown Colorado which also held non federal prisoners.
Most people who work in Georgetown make minimum wage and live paycheck to paycheck. The minimum bail at the Clear Creek Jail is $400 which is more than most people around there take home per week.
I met a woman there who was arrested because her auto registration expired. She said she didn’t have a criminal record and was broke because her young daughter had cancer. The phones there are in the same room prisoners eat and sleep in so I heard her talking with her husband about how he was trying to borrow the $400. It took him a couple of weeks to raise the $400.
Another woman pled guilty to a crime they had no evidence that she did. Her X claimed that he was missing $3K of cash and tools and suspected she took them. There wasn’t any evidence other than his statement that he was missing anything and no evidence she took anything from him. Her bail was $10 K and she didn’t have a prayer of raising that so after 6 months she pled guilty to a lesser offense for time served. She got years of probation so she can be re imprisoned if her probation officer demands a B-job and she doesn’t perform. Seriously, they have to approve everything you do, where you live, who you date. I tried to talk her into going to trial instead of pleading out but her PD said she would be charged with perjury if she backed out of the plea.
I am not an attorney but I am a parent who has been through the court system nightmare with my teenage son. I have paid in excess of $20-30,000 (cash) to lawyers to represent accused of drug charges in two counties. I don’t see the lawyer as the problem except for the huge cost, it’s pretty routine and I don’t know in spite of all that money they impacted sentencing or incarceration decisions because there are so many mandatory minimums and there is no way to fight them. I see the problem as a system that is dysfunctional and not related to true justice. The police have to arrest people to get overtime and keep their jobs. The courts have to put people in jail while the case proceeds and set prohibitive bail so they don’t look soft on crime. The courts complain they are overworked but the reason is too many people get arrested see – http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Cries-for-help-in-her-final-days-4342317.php. This is a woman who was arrested for her visa being expired as she was trying to get to Canada to go back home so she could re-apply legally. So what happened, she was sent to a jail and she died. She was in jail waiting to be sent back home anyway. This makes no sense. It’s so easy to break laws especially for young people. I think that is one reason people don’t protest against anything, they will only arrest you anyway.
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