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$10.5 Million Settlement in Tennessee Juvenile’s Death Caused by Guard’s Chokehold

The privately-operated Chad Youth Enhancement Center (Chad) in Ashland City, Tennessee paid $10.5 million to settle a lawsuit involving a juvenile’s death. The youth, Omega “Manny” Leach, 17, died from asphyxiation caused by a guard’s chokehold on June 2, 2007.

A surveillance camera caught what attorneys for Leach’s estate called a “brutal attack.” It showed Chad guard Randall Dale Rae, Jr. throw Leach to the ground and then choke him.
Another guard, Milton Gerald Francis, arrived as Rae was holding Leach on the ground with his arms pinned behind his back. Francis took over restraining Leach. When a nurse arrived, she noticed Leach was not breathing and had no pulse.

“Tragically, the death of Manny Leach was not only preventable, it was predictable,” the estate’s attorneys, Thomas R. Kline, David K. Inscho and Mark Alan Hoffman, wrote in court pleadings. “Chad had an egregious history of excessively and injuriously restraining its residents, failing to comply with state reporting requirements for injured residents, and improperly screening, training and disciplining its employees.”

Chad, a 90-bed mental health center now known as the Oak Plains Academy that is run by Universal Health Services, Inc., was criticized in a September 25, 2008 report by the Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee. The report found “that Chad staff members use restraint/physical holds too frequently and without sufficient grounds (e.g. restraints are implemented in non-emergency situations in violation of federal law and facility policy).”

Leach, who was from Philadelphia, was adjudicated delinquent for stealing a car and later found in violation of his probation after testing positive for marijuana. He had been in and out of mental hospitals and treatment centers since the age of 11.

A medical examiner ruled Leach’s death a homicide. At least 30 youths were removed from Chad after Leach died, and the Tennessee Dept. of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities suspended further admissions to the facility.

However, as regularly occurs when guards kill a prisoner, no one was prosecuted. A Tennessee grand jury declined to bring charges against Rae or Francis. The $10.5 million settlement, reached in February 2010, was the only justice obtained in this case. See: Dolby v. Universal Health Services, Inc., U.S.D.C. (E.D. Penn.), Case No. 2:07-cv-05288-MSG.


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Related legal case

Dolby v. Universal Health Services, Inc.