Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Father of Four Dies in Privately-operated Texas Jail; Civil Suit Expected

On October 5, 2016, the Huffington Post released disturbing video from inside a private prison in Texarkana, Texas that showed Michael Sabbie, a 35-year-old father of four, being violently flung to the ground by a group of six guards. Surveillance cameras recorded as Sabbie was then pepper-sprayed; he cried out “I can’t breathe” nineteen times and pleaded for medical attention before being placed in an isolation cell.

Sabbie was found dead at the LaSalle Corrections-operated Bi-State Jail on July 22, 2015, just 14 hours after his altercation with the guards. He had been suffering from pneumonia and spitting up blood at the time he was booked into the jail, and previously told a judge during a court appearance that he needed to go to a hospital. Instead, he received a 40-second exam by a jail nurse.

Erik Heipt, an attorney representing Sabbie’s family, said the respiratory distress that Sabbie experienced was a result of pulmonary edema, which was listed as “natural causes” in his autopsy report.

“I am told by a professor of emergency medicine that he was 95-99% savable at any point up to his death,” Heipt said.

Earlier in 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice decided not to pursue charges against the LaSalle guards despite the video evidence. Sabbie’s family was devastated and said they plan to file a civil rights suit.

“He did everything in his power to try to get help,” said Sabbie’s wife, Teresa. “He saw the nurses several times. He begged for help. But he had no power to himself. He was in the complete control and custody of the jail, and they were the only ones who could help him.”


As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login