The Associated Press (AP) reported that “an autopsy concluded that the 36-year-old inmate suffered from no fewer than three serious illnesses – cancer, hepatitis, and HIV.”
According to the findings of the coroner and pathologist who examined Montoya, however, the only medication in his body at the time of death was a “trace” of Tylenol.
“He shouldn’t have died in agony like that,” said Coroner Dennis Conover. “He had been out there long enough that he should have at least died in the hospital.”
By “out there,” one can only assume Conover was referring to the fact that Montoya had been in the custody and control of the Bureau of Prisons and its medical staff, who are required to provide prisoners with medical care.
Montoya, whose cause of death was internal bleeding that resulted from a burst spleen, exhibited symptoms of cancer and hepatitis that would have been hard to miss – including dramatic weight loss, a swollen abdomen and yellow eyes, according to the coroner. His father, Juan Montoya, stated that his son “consistently made requests to the prison for medical attention, and they wouldn’t give it to him.” The Bureau of Prisons, through FCI Pekin spokesman Jay Henderson, refused the AP’s request for information and further comment on the case.
An admitted abuser of methamphetamines, Montoya was jailed when he violated conditions of his bond in 2009 after pleading guilty to counterfeiting commercial checks, credit cards and gift cards. Immediately prior to violating the conditions of his bond which prohibited drug use, Montoya was diagnosed with HIV. He was taking antiviral drugs at the time of his arrest and was later sent to a federal prison processing facility in Oklahoma City, where his father said his medication was waiting for him. However, there was no indication that upon his transfer to FCI Pekin he received his medication or that prison officials at Pekin were aware of his serious medical condition.
According to David Fathi, president of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, it is not uncommon for medical records to fail to arrive with a transferred federal prisoner.
“Sometimes it arrives late, and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. That’s why it’s so critical that the new facilities do a medical screening” of newly-arrived prisoners. Fathi called Montoya’s death “an egregious failure, of the kind that you wouldn’t expect from even a small county jail, let alone the largest prison system in the United States.”
Dr. James Egner, an oncologist with the Carle Foundation Hospital in Champaign, Illinois, said that someone in Montoya’s condition would have been advised to take heavy doses of chemotherapy or receive stem cell transplants, or in the latter stages, treated with powerful pain medication.
Two prisoners at FCI Pekin who tried to raise awareness about Montoya’s death were transferred to other prisons. Randy Rader was sent to a facility in California, while Jae Eads was transferred to a prison in Pennsylvania. Both had knowledge of Montoya’s death, including that he had pleaded for medication while in extreme pain before he died. “That man begged these people for nine days [for medical care] locked behind these doors,” Rader wrote in a letter to his mother on November 14, 2009, the day after Montoya died.
The FBI completed its investigation into Montoya’s death and sent its findings to the U.S. Justice Department for review. Montoya’s family is reportedly contemplating legal action.
Sources: Associated Press, www.huffingtonpost.com, Pekin Daily Times
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