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Assaulted Detainee Settles with Louisiana Jail over Deliberate Indifference to His Safety

by Christopher Zoukis

A mentally ill jail Louisiana detainee who was beaten by fellow inmates after urinating on another detainee’s shoes agreed to a settlement with jail employees regarding his civil rights suit.

On April 16, 2004, Stephen Stewart was placed on probation over a felony drug charge and misdemeanor battery charge, and was in drug and mental health programs because of his history of mental instability. Two years later, when he failed to appear at a hearing, an arrest warrant was issued.

On August 15, 2006, Stewart was arrested and placed in the custody of Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman. Rather than take Stewart to court or a mental health facility, Gusman had G. Brisco place him in general jail population. Sixteen days later Stewart urinated on a fellow detainee’s shoes while delusional and was severely beaten by other jail detainees.

     Stewart was examined by Glenn Steeb, a jail doctor, who had Stewart sent to Chabert Medical Center, Houma. He was then transferred to the Medical Center of Louisiana in New Orleans. While under the care of John P. Hunt, Stewart was discharged by Keraf Sherafgan on September 5 and returned to the general jail population. On September 9, Stewart was found unresponsive, and a CT scan, which was not previously performed, showed a brain hematoma, herniation and hemorrhage. Emergency surgery was performed.

     On August 15, 2007, Stewart filed a civil rights complaint in federal court against Gusman, Brisco, Steeb, Hunt and Sherafgan. He alleged that Gusman and Brisco were deliberately indifferent to his safety and placing him in the general population violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. He argued that his continued incarceration violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights, and the defendant’s failure to provide adequate medical care violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He claimed his false imprisonment violated state law and the failure to properly evaluate and treat his condition was medical malpractice.

     Sherafgan and Hunt were dismissed from the suit, and the remaining defendants reached a settlement with Stewart. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The case was dismissed by Judge Carl J. Barbier on April 11, 2012.

See: Stewart v. Gusman, et al., United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Case No. 2:07-cv-04132-CJB-KWR (Apr. 9, 2012)

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Related legal case

Stewart v. Gusman, et al.