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Lawsuit Filed in Sketchy Jail Death

10 Apr

At the end of 2013 I wrote about the death of inmate Terry Edwards at the Jefferson County jail. Edwards, who was being held for driving on a suspended license, had been there for two days after being arrested by St. Louis County police. He died of a perforated ulcer.

Now, a multi-million dollar lawsuit has been filed against the county over this death. The suit contends that Edwards was in major pain from the afternoon of November 28, 2013 (Thanksgiving Day) until his death early the next morning, and that his requests for help were shrugged off by jail staff and the doctor (who was reached by phone).

According to the jail’s IJMS (Inmate Jail Management System) log, the doctor was called at 4:20 pm on the 28th due to Edwards’ “massive stomach pains,” and said to give him Milk of Magnesia. The doctor was called again at 8:58 pm because Edwards had “bad lower stomach pains and his shoulder and arm was hurting.” The doctor said to give Edwards Motrin and have him see the nurse in the morning. Edwards refused the Motrin. (Of note, ibuprofen and other NSAIDs can actually cause ulcers). Deputies’ reports say he was last seen alive at about 2:15 am. It was at about 4:20 am that Edwards was found to be unresponsive and the ambulance was called. He was pronounced dead at 4:44 am.

What The Lawsuit Says

According to the lawsuit, two other inmates stated that Edwards made additional and repeated requests for medical assistance, but jail officials declined, claiming that he was “dope sick” (he was not found to have drugs in his system). The inmates stated that they also asked, and even begged, jail officials to help him, and that he was vomiting blood. One inmate told this version of events to Fox 2:

“He had been having stomach pains, and he was leaned over holding his belly,” the inmate, who did not want to be identified, said.

He went on to say that Edwards asked jail authorities for help.

“Like six or seven times,” he said.

Here’s a contemporaneous Facebook posting:

FB_screenshot2

What Sheriff Records Say

According to one corrections officer (CO), Edwards complained of back pain at 5:45 pm on the 28th, but did not mention any pain when his meal was delivered at 7 pm or at 10:30 pm. This officer mentions no other contact with the inmate until the time he was found unresponsive after 4 am.

Another CO reported that Edwards never asked for medical treatment or mentioned any medical problems. A third CO who interacted with Edwards during the afternoon of the 28th saw him in a vomiting position but says he observed no blood coming up. He also stated with a suspicious tone that Edwards only asked for help when he could see a CO, but did not ask for help when he did not see one. (That kinda seems reasonable to me.)

The CO who apparently was last to see Edwards alive, at 2:15 am, said he complained of stomach pains and asked for something “to calm his stomach.” The CO denied this request, due to his refusal of Motrin, and told Edwards to see the nurse, who was scheduled to arrive at the jail at 9 am.

Discrepancy?

There are apparent differences between what one inmate told the COs and what he told the plaintiff’s attorneys. This is in a CO report:

cox2

This is in the lawsuit:

cox1

The latter statement has additional details; one might wonder why these details were not shared with the COs. But maybe Cox did not feel comfortable placing blame on the COs while he was still in custody. Of note, it does not appear that the COs took statements from any of the neighboring inmates, including one who claimed in the lawsuit that he had asked the COs to help Edwards.

In general, this lawsuit will have to overcome the general tendency to trust law enforcement officers over those who’ve been accused of crimes (however minor) and incarcerated, as well as the probability that there are inmates who lie about medical problems. But the fact that Edwards was fine when he entered the jail and shortly thereafter died of a treatable condition is also a hard fact to explain away.

Contractor

At the time, and I believe currently, the jail contracted with Correctional Healthcare Companies for inmate medical care. This company has been hit with a number of lawsuits for inadequate provision of care and may find itself a party to this lawsuit at some point.

Other Recent Jail Deaths

  • Bradley Kingery – heroin overdose; 2012; arrested during a traffic stop and wanted on outstanding traffic warrants.
  • Michael Abboud – cause unknown at this time; last month; being held for tampering with a motor vehicle and leaving the scene of an accident.

Plaintiffs Proliferate in Pursuit of Politician Pay

22 Mar

On the last day of 2015, Bruce King, Democrat former elected public administrator for Jefferson County who was defeated for re-election in 2012, filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County court against the county, alleging that the county charter had been misinterpreted and that he was not paid as much money as he should have been. The lawsuit demanded back pay and retroactive credits towards retirement.

At the time, observers including me speculated that King was merely a front man, one who no longer had a political career to protect, who was filing the suit on behalf of other greedy incumbent elected officials. Well that belief has been affirmed, because a slew of current and former county elected officials added their names to the suit in January of this year. Most notable, I would say, is county executive Ken Waller, a Republican, who I hear is actively pursuing another job at this time, with two years left in his term. Here is the rest of the list of new plaintiffs:

  • Mark Abel – Democrat deceased former treasurer. His wife is also on the suit, presumably to collect his posthumous windfall.
  • Chuck Banks – Democrat former county commissioner.
  • Marlene Castle – Democrat former recorder of deeds.
  • Randy Holman – Democrat former assessor and current appointed county clerk (put in place by Waller).
  • Pat Lamping – Democrat former county commissioner.
  • Beth Mahn – Democrat current collector.
  • Linda Nees – Democrat former treasurer.
  • Terry Roesch – Democrat outgoing assessor.
  • Dorothy Stafford – Democrat former auditor.
  • Wes Wagner – Democrat former county clerk, who left in the middle of his term for a private sector job.
  • Steve Farmer – Republican current public administrator.

We must condemn the above officials, all of whom are/were making $70-85,000, who knew when they took their jobs what they would be paid, but are now going to the courts to attempt to extract money from taxpayers, in many cases well after they left office. But let us praise those elected officials (who served prior to 2017) who have apparently chosen not to join this lawsuit (let me know if I missed someone):

  • Richard Carter – Republican current assessor.
  • Debbie Dunnegan – Republican current recorder of deeds.
  • Forrest Wegge – Democrat current prosecutor.
  • Michael Reuter – Republican current circuit court clerk.
  • Howard Wagner – Democrat former circuit court clerk.
  • Glenn Boyer – Democrat former sheriff.
  • Survivors of Ed Kemp, Democrat deceased former county commissioner.

The plaintiffs are citing section 7.7.3.11 of the county charter (page 38), which says that “the annual salary of every elected County Officer is not to be less than the annual salary of the holder of the equivalent office in a first-class non-charter county.” The suit then goes on the cite the salaries of elected officeholders in Boone County (which is where Columbia is). Never mind that there are 13 other first-class non-charter counties they could have chosen to compare with JeffCo.The lawsuit says:

“The clear intent also was to provide that…salaries would be adjusted upward to match those of office holders of the highest paying first class non-charter county.”

Doesn’t sound clear to me at all. In general, this seems like a poorly thought out and drafted provision.

All told, this lawsuit could cost the county over $600,000, according to the Leader. This is in addition to the legal costs, as the county has hired an outside law firm to deal with this case (see page 22).

Speaking of lawyers, local attorney and JeffCo GOP apparatchik Derrick Good is one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in this case. He even helped write the damn county charter that he is trying to exploit via loophole in true lawyerly fashion. Did he help draft the provision in question? It is sad (sad!) to see several supposed conservatives joining in on this effort to divert taxpayer money to their bank accounts.

Some Post-Election Notes

9 Nov

It was a clean sweep in JeffCo for the Republicans, as they won every office in the county, and received majorities here in every statewide race. The one that most surprises me, I’d say, is sheriff. I figured that Democrat candidate Steve Meinberg’s experience as Glenn Boyer’s right-hand man would overcome the GOP tide, since Boyer seems to be fairly popular, but GOP candidate Dave Marshak won with a big 58% of the vote.

Donald Trump received 64.5% of the JeffCo vote, with almost 69,000 votes out of 107,000. By comparison, here are the totals of the last two presidential winners of our county:

2012: Mitt Romney: 55%, 54,000 votes out of 97,700

2008: Barack Obama, 50.5%, 53,000 votes out of 105,700

As you see, Trump blew them out big league. For another comparison, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson got 3,966 votes here this year, versus 1,715 in 2012, getting more than double the votes this time.

Here’s a table comparing Trump and statewide GOP candidates’ vote percentages in JeffCo versus statewide:

gop-2016-nov-percents

As you see, Trump’s statewide numbers were in line with some of the other candidates (Josh Hawley even got more total votes than Trump). But in JeffCo, Trump far exceeded the other GOP statewide candidates. So this former rep, who was defeated in 2014, was partially right:

“There’s ticket splitters galore this year,” said former state Rep. Michael Frame, who used to represent part of Jefferson County. “I have heard the Trump-Koster thing a million times over. Folks are talking about that quite a bit in the diners, in the Hardee’s, at the McDonald’s.”

While Democrats Chris Koster and Jason Kander got 14-15,000 more votes in JeffCo than Hillary Clinton did, it was not enough to overcome their GOP opponents. In every case, the GOP candidate got a higher vote percentage in JeffCo than he did Missouri-wide. Instead of a bellwether or a swing county, JeffCo is becoming an important vote source for Republican candidates in Missouri.

Vote percentages for GOP candidates in the countywide races ranged from 55-62%, not including the judicial race for division 1, which Republican Wes Yates won with only 52% of the vote. So with the possible exception of Yates, I’d say that Trump’s coattails weren’t needed to facilitate the JeffCo GOP sweep of 2016.

Trump’s big numbers here can only mean he won some Democrat votes. Considering that the average vote count among Republicans listed on all county ballots was about 58,000, compared to Trump’s almost 69,000, that means that about 10,000 county Dems voted for him. The way he won over so many Democratic voters (or Hillary scared them away) in our blue-collar county is probably indicative of how he won the presidential election.

In my next post, I will take a look at the weakened state of Big Labor in our county.

Some Pre-Election Notes

7 Nov

Here are some things I’ve noticed, heading into tomorrow’s election:

-Trisha Stefanski ran as a Republican in the primary for associate circuit judge, division 13, and was unsuccessful. Now she signs on to a supposedly bipartisan Leader ad endorsing all the county Democrat candidates for judge:

judge-ad2

I understand the ideal that we should vote for the person, not the party, in these judge races, but if Stefanski thinks all the Democratic candidates are better, then one wonders why she ran as a Republican?

-I’ve seen a few ads for Democrat house candidate Karen Settlemoir-Berg on Instagram. It is interesting to see local candidates make use (or not) of social media.

-It doesn’t seem proper for sheriff candidates, and the current sheriff, to appear in uniform in their campaign ads:

meiny

This is Democrat candidate Steve Meinberg, with current sheriff Glenn Boyer. I have also seen GOP candidate Dave Marshak in uniform in his ads, but those photos aren’t plastered all over billboards. Meinberg also claims to have the endorsement of most of the sheriff’s office command staff – but do they really support him, or do they fear for their jobs if he wins and they aren’t on board the bandwagon?

Here is Democrat county assessor candidate Todd Melkus in a campaign photo, presumably in his office with his coworkers (he currently works at the assessor’s office). Again, seems rather inappropriate.

melky

-Democrat house candidate Robert Butler continues to talk about the lawsuit he filed against opponent and incumbent Rob Vescovo, even though he lost. I imagine this is not the first frivolous lawsuit Butler, an attorney, has filed.

-The Leader endorsements were an even split, with 7 GOP candidates getting the nod, including all legislature incumbents, and 7 Democrats selected, including 3 of the 4 judge spots.

Glenn Boyer Blocked Again from State Commission

9 Oct

I would argue that, as Governor, Jay Nixon has not done much for us in his home county (to which he will not be returning when he leaves office). One thing he seems determined to do, though, is get outgoing Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer onto a state commission. However, he is now 0 for 2 in that effort.

After going outside of the legal framework to appoint Boyer to the state veteran’s commission, but being blocked by local senator Paul Wieland (as explained here), Nixon appointed Boyer to the Public Defender Commission (PDC). However, the director of the state’s public defenders, Michael Barrett, then said that due to the obvious conflict of interest, his office could no longer represent any defendants in Jefferson County courts. This is obviously untenable, so Boyer resigned. He admitted this was part of the reason, but also cited medical issues (unlike Rock Ambulance chief Margie Sammons, who said her recent retirement had NOTHING to do with all the controversy surrounding her).

(I should note here that members of the vets commission and the PDC do not receive a salary).

Bad Fit

It seems to me that putting a current/former sheriff on the PDC makes no sense. Boyer’s career has been all about busting perps and not letting things like civil liberties get in the way of that effort. But now he’s supposed to turn around and stick up for indigent defendants who have a constitutional right to effective representation in court? Recall that Nixon had a big dustup with Barrett in August over funding for public defenders. Barrett used a state statute to appoint Nixon as attorney in a criminal case, but Nixon was able to fight off the summons. After this, Nixon appointed three new members to the PDC. Is he trying to stack the board to get Barrett fired? Boyer would have been a good hatchet man to enact political revenge, while at the same time claiming he is above politics.

Looking at the current makeup of the commission, it includes two former prosecutors and a career law enforcement official. One man who was appointed alongside Boyer is a former sheriff of St. Charles County, and the man replacing Boyer was a police detective. An outgoing member of the board has been active in public defender issue, and one of the new appointees has some experience in criminal defense. There is also one member who has apparently had nothing to do with criminal justice. So it seems experience with legal defense is pretty limited on the PDC

I’m not seeing anything online that questions the heavy police/prosecutor makeup of the PDC, but it seems like something that legal reform advocates would question. It is clear that there is a crisis in the public defenders office of insufficient funding and overworked attorneys. Maybe a PDC less inclined towards the prosecution would work harder to address this long-running problem.

Former Arnold Pastor Pleads Guilty to Burglary of Parishioners, and Related Events

8 Aug

A former pastor of a church formerly located in Arnold plead guilty in February and was sentenced to probation in April for breaking into the home of a church member to steal prescription opiods, according to court documents. On top of that, this story takes a number of twists and turns that I will lay out in this post.

skiles

Mug shot from JeffCo Sheriff, via Mobile Patrol app.

The pastor’s name is Tom Skiles, and the church was SOS Church, which was located on JeffCo Boulevard but has since moved out of Arnold. Skiles led the church for 10 years (he got some attention in 2009 for a series of MMA-themed sermons). The relocation of the church in April 2014 to Rockwood Summit High School (RSHS) was prompted by a court judgment against the church after it fell behind by over $23,000 in rent to its landlord, according to court documents. Casenet indicates that this judgment has yet to be paid by Skiles and/or the church.

Several former members of the church are convinced that the reason SOS could not pay its rent is because Skiles stole money from the church for personal use, based on extravagant spending they witnessed. However, these allegations do not appear to have been brought to police.

However, Skiles has violated his probation with separate arrests for DWI and drug possession. The process of revoking his probation is underway in county court.

Timeline of Events

  • March 2014 – Skiles breaks into home of parishioners; relocation of church announced*
  • late March 2014 – SOS Church announces that Skiles is “taking a little break which is well deserved”*
  • April 2014 – Church relocates to RSHS*
  • May 2014 – Burglary harges filed against Skiles in Jefferson County court
  • June 2014 – Lawsuit filed against church for unpaid rent
  • July 2014 – Skiles arrested
  • April 2015 – Judge rules for landlord in lawsuit, orders payment of $24,943
  • October 2015 – New lead pastors announced at SOS – Skiles’ brother and his wife*
  • December 2015 – New name announced for SOS Church – Endurance Church
  • February 2016 – Skiles pleads guilty to break in
  • April 2016 – Skiles sentenced to five years probation
  • July 2016 – Skiles arrested for DWI and marijuana possession in separate events, motion to revoke probation filed

* These events are portrayed on social media as positive happenings; it seems that the true reasoning behind the events was concealed from or downplayed to church members.

Unreported

Now, one would expect “pastor steals from his flock” to be journalistic red meat, sure to merit mention in the papers, but to my knowledge the Leader has not reported on these events, despite being tipped off by former SOS members. This is especially strange given the sometimes mundane crimes the Leader does report on.

It was also stated by the county prosecutor in Skiles’ criminal case that he was picked up by the Festus PD in early 2016 for DWI but was allowed to go home uncharged. Recall that the Festus PD also let the city judge get away with a potential DWI in 2004, as I wrote about here. How common is this in Festus?

Might these examples of special treatment have something to do with the fact that Skiles’ aunt is the wife of JeffCo sheriff Glenn Boyer?

There is a feeling among the former SOS members I talked to that Skiles has gotten away with a lot. We will have to watch his probation revocation proceedings to see if this continues. In addition, the mug shot above was taken after the marijuana arrest on July 1 – no charges have been filed for this incident as of yet.

JeffCo August Primary Results

2 Aug

The vote results are in for our county. They came in fairly early this time, compared to recent years, with updates throughout the night instead of a big dump at the end of the night. Candidates in bold below are ones I endorsed.

For the statewide GOP races, our results mirrored what is happening statewide (so far), with Greitens for governor, Parson for lt. governor, Hawley for AG, and Ashcroft for SoS prevailing. Greitens has right about 35% of the 4-way vote both in JeffCo and statewide. On the Democrat side, Jake Zimmerman has a 3,000 vote lead at 50.7% in the AG race as I write this, but he won JeffCo by 2,200 votes at 60%. Judy Baker leads the treasurer race with about 62% here and statewide.

Locally, Bob Boyer pulled out a close win in the GOP assessor race. He was trailing early, as the votes from the southern part of the county came in first, but when the northern vote was tabulated, he won 36-34-29 over Mary Dunnegan and Cary Blum.

Paula Wagner cruised in the GOP treasurer race, 47-28-23 over Mark Paul and Ken Horton.

Charles Groeteke, known for losing two nailbiter races, defeated George Engelbach in a county council race that also seemed to come down to north vs south vote, by a 56-44 margin (almost 400 votes). He will face Jeff Roorda in November.

Incumbent Shane Roden prevailed in a five-way primary for House district 111 with 44% of the vote. Gary Bonacker came in 2nd with 28%.

Dan Stallman beat Kevin Weaver in council district 6 by 66 votes out of 3,600 cast in the closest race of the night.

Dave Marshak rolled to the GOP sheriff nomination, getting half the vote in a 3-way field. Ron Arnhart got 33% while Sean Cooper registered only 16%. Marshak will take on Steve Meinberg in November.

On the Democrat side, for House district 113, Karen Settlemoir-Berg beat perennial primary candidate Mike Evans by 59-41. She will take on Dan Shaul in November.

The three incumbent US Congressmen who represent our county did not fare all that well within our borders. Ann Wagner got only 77% and Blaine Luetkemeyer got 67% vs. minor challengers, and Jason Smith lost the county to Todd Mahn of Festus (but cruised district-wide). Likewise, Senator Roy Blunt got only 68% of the county GOP vote.

The one competitive judicial primary was won by Katherine Hardy Senkel, with a 34.3-33.9-31.8 victory over Tony Dorsett and Trisha Stefanski. Hardy Senkel beat Dorsett by only 83 votes.

The car sales tax issue Prop V won everywhere, while school tax votes lost in Dunklin and won in Sunrise. A Saline Fire tax vote was successful.

And finally, Chief Wana Dubie got 11% of the JeffCo vote for US Senator (Jason Kander won here with  69%).

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