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Lake County, Indiana Establishes $8.2 Million Bond to Settle Jail Lawsuits

by Ed Lyon

On March 25, 2015, Gregory Smith, 39, was arrested in Hobart, Indiana for driving five miles an hour over the speed limit. He was transferred to the Crown Point police, then booked into the Lake County jail. He told several guards and medical staff that he suffered from bipolar disorder; after being placed in a holding cell, he began exhibiting a manic episode. A medical staffer prescribed medication that was never given.

When Smith’s psychosis deepened, he was removed from his cell to be Tased and then beaten by jailers Machinkowski, Peters, Savadra, Buck, Hagan and Laurent. Registered nurses Alsip and Glissman stood by and witnessed the brutal assault, accompanied by several unnamed Merrillville police officers. Smith reportedly died due to cardiac arrest after he was shocked with the Taser. His estate, represented by attorney Blake W. Horwitz, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. See: Smith v. Lake County, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ind.), Case No. 2:15-cv-00123-JVB-JEM.

Previously, in March 2013, Cedell Wright was incarcerated at the Lake County jail. He had a documented schizoaffective disorder, and had developed extreme constipation and bronchopneumonia (lobar type) in his right lung. Wright reportedly refused medical care several times as well as psychotropic medications, and died on March 3, 2013 due to pneumonia with fecal impaction as a contributing factor, according to an autopsy.

Highland, Indiana attorney David S. Gladish filed suit on behalf of Wright’s estate in a civil rights action in the same U.S. District Court. See: Estate of Wright v. Lake County, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ind.), Case No. 2:13-cv-00333-JVB.

On April 26, 2007, Lake County jail prisoner Adekunle Odumabo told U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry several times that he wanted to die. Cherry ordered jail staff to place him on suicide monitoring. After one day he was released from suicide watch. Several days later, Odumabo, 39, hanged himself using a bed sheet attached to a vent in his cell. His estate was represented by the Chicago law firm of Loevy & Loevy in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit against the county. See: Sowell v. Dominguez, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ind.), Case No. 2:09-cv-00047-APR.

Further, Lake County’s jail was the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice settlement reached in 2010 over medical care and conditions of confinement.

On November 17, 2017, the Chicago Tribune reported the county had settled the Smith case for $2,750,000; the Odumabo case for $2,200,000; the Wright case for $800,000; and $365,000 for the case of 68-year-old Mohamad Elmusa, who was handcuffed, shackled and beaten by Lake County jailers. There are six more suits pending – five involving claims against the jail – and the county planned to establish an overall $8,200,000 bond to cover settlements in those actions, including the payments in the Smith, Odumabo, Wright and Elmusa cases. 

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Related legal cases

Smith v. Lake County

Estate of Wright v. Lake County

Sowell v. Dominguez