The Richmond Register

January 16, 2014

Madison County jail, staffers sued in 2012 death of inmate

By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — The mother of a man who committed suicide in the Madison County Detention Center in 2012 is suing the county, the jailer and several jail employees alleging negligence, falsifying documents and constitutional violations in his death.

Jailer Doug Thomas declined to comment on the pending litigation in federal court. The lawsuit was filed Nov. 8.

The Kentucky State Police have twice denied an Open Records request from the Richmond Register for public records associated with the death investigation of Charles Franklin Hoffman, 28, of Hastings, Mich.

Both denials from the KSP custodian of records, from April 2013 and October 2013, stated the records are still part of an open criminal investigation.

Karen Lawrence, a resident of Delton, Mich., is suing Jailer Doug Thomas and jail employees Christine E. Greene, William Tyler O’Brien, Shawn Moody, Cory Dunning and Deputy Roberts (no first name given).

Hoffman was arrested Oct. 14, 2012, by a Berea police officer, according to jail records. He was being held on a fugitive warrant from another state and awaiting extradition.

The Michigan warrant stated Hoffman was wanted for a parole violation.

A Grand Rapids (Mich.) newspaper reported that Hoffman “was sentenced in 2007 to three to 10 years in prison for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, causing serious injury. He also was sentenced to a lesser term for delivery/manufacture of marijuana, records showed.”

The civil lawsuit against the jail states that Hoffman’s medical questionnaire upon entering the jail indicated he did not have any illnesses, was not on medications, had not had mental treatments and he did not have any present suicidal thoughts or any history of such attempts.

The Extraordinary Occurrence Report generated by the detention center after his death, obtained through an Open Records request to the state department of corrections, also indicated that Hoffman did not exhibit signs of illness prior to his death.

On Nov. 10, Hoffman was moved to an isolation cell for “reasons presently unknown,” the lawsuit states.

However, while alone in an isolation cell Nov. 10, Hoffman’s body was discovered shortly after 7 p.m.. He was “hanging over the toilet with a sheet around his neck, that was connected to a piece of plastic trash bag that was looped through an air vent and that noose was supported by a mirror over the toilet,” the lawsuit states.

Jail employees attempted CPR, but he was declared dead a short time later at the jail, according to the document.

When asked by the Register the day after Hoffman’s death why he was in the isolation cell, Thomas was unable to give an explanation.

The lawsuit alleges that while jail staff told investigators they checked on Hoffman regularly, the surveillance video revealed he had not been checked on by an employee for several hours before his death. The log book indicates he was checked on, but Hoffman’s mother claims the records were falsified and in fact, her son had not been checked on since 5:11 p.m.

The jail was cited by a state inspector in 2011 for surveillance checks that were random and noncompliant with regulations. The inspection form states that in-person surveillance must be done every 20 minutes for certain classes of prisoners.

The lawsuit claims that Hoffman’s autopsy also revealed that at the time of his death, he had an injury that caused swelling on his scalp.

“Upon information and belief, Defendants struck and/or permitted Charles Hoffman to be struck in his head and failed to intervene on his behalf to stop the excessive and unnecessary force,” the lawsuit states.

Hoffman’s mother is asking the court to award her in excess of $75,000 in damages on eight counts of federal law violations, according to the suit.

None of the defendants have yet filed a response to the allegations.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.