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Wrongful Death, Arrest of New Mexico Epileptic Settles For $1,250,000

During the week of May 22, 2000, Taos County, New Mexico, settled for $1.25
million a wrongful death lawsuit alleging, among other things, false
arrest, excessive force, and denial of medical care.

Joaquin Gonzales, 42, had an epileptic seizure while visiting some friends
on November 21, 1999. Sheriff's deputies responded to the friends' 911 call
and were told Gonzales was having grand mal and petit mal seizures. The
cops, however, determined Gonzales was drunk. They then hog tied him and/or
put him in a straight jacket, and took him to the Taos County Jail.
(According to the lawsuit, the deputies knew Gonzales personally and knew
he suffered from epilepsy.)

At the jail Gonzales was handcuffed and hog tied with his feet pulled up to
the top bunk and his head and chest resting on the lower bunk. He received
no medical attention. The lawsuit alleged that before he died Gonzales was
tied to a post, beaten, and tortured. One reportedly drunken deputy, Chris
Trujillo, was seen going into Gonzales's cell alone. The lawsuit alleged
that other deputies who did not engage in the beating made no effort to
stop those who did.

Following his death, a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the
District of New Mexico claiming that various County procedures and policies
contributed to Gonzales's death. The lawsuit further alleged that deputy
Trujillo and jail administrator Ambrose Mascarenas violated Gonzales's
Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights while acting under color of law and
directly caused his death. The plaintiff also made a claim of supervisory

The case settled prior to trial for $1.25 million. Experts Chris Sperry,
M.D., medical examiner for the State of Georgia and Dale Sechrest, a
California jail expert, had been retained but were never interviewed or
deposed. Attorneys Brad D. Hall of Albuquerqe and Kimball B. Udall of the
Santa Fe firm Udall, Othmer & Hardwick represented the plaintiff.
Of note, the Taos County Jail has a history of mismanagement. In an
unrelated case, State District Judge T. Glenn Ellington said the jail under
Mascarenas was the laughingstock of New Mexico and likened it to Stalag 13,
the comedic German prisoner of war camp immortalized on television's Hogans
Heroes. See: Montoya v. County of Taos, USDC D NM, Case No. 99cv01477.

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Related legal case

Montoya v. County of Taos