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$25,000 Paid by Santa Clara County to Prisoner Suffering Mental Health Episode Beaten by Guards at County Jail

By Chuck Sharman 

Lawyers finished executing an agreement on July 27, 2018, under which Santa Clara County, California, consented to pay $25,000 to settle claims by a prisoner at the county jail that two guards attacked him there.

George Pye was being held at the jail in San Jose on the night of October 6, 2014, when he began suffering a mental health episode. He called out to guards, but even though several passed by his cell, no one responded. So Pye pressed the panic button in his cell. Several guards came rushing in then, including Jonathan Benson and Jereh Lubrin.

Pye was moved to an interview room and handcuffed to a chair, where he was seen by Cynthia Vasquez from the jail’s Mental Health staff. She recognized Pye from seeing him for previous mental health problems and said she’d never seen him so upset.

After she left, Benson and Lubrin went into the interview room and ordered Pye to stand and face the wall while they removed his handcuffs. But as soon as he did so, they allegedly slammed his head against the wall, twisting his arm behind him until he heard a pop and passed out from pain.

When he came to, Pye was naked in his cell. He asked guards for medical and mental health attention, but his request was allegedly ignored. He soon began to file administrative complaints over the incident and, when those were exhausted, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on December 16, 2015, accusing the two guards of using excessive force and accusing the county of negligently letting them do so.

The complaint was amended on July 25, 2016. The county and Benson responded on July 28, 2016, denying the allegations. The next day, Lubrin followed suit. The parties then reached their settlement agreement. Pye was represented in his suit by attorneys Thomas A. Evans and Rachel A. Naor of the San Francisco firm of Reed Smith. 

See: Pye v. Cnty. of Santa Clara, USDC (N.D.Ca.), Case No. 3:15-cv-05768 VC.

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Related legal case

Pye v. Cnty. of Santa Clara