Several current and former Orange County Jail inmates have filed an amended class-action lawsuit against the county and Sheriff Don Barnes, this time adding claims related to the in-custody death of a defendant in a murder case.
The amended complaint filed Tuesday includes claims related to the death of 57-year-old Kirk Price, who was injured in a Dec. 26 fight with another inmate while housed at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange and died at a hospital on Jan. 18.
Price had been awaiting trial on charge of killing 44-year-old Fahness Lutalo at a mixed martial arts facility in March 2016.
“Events on the ground have, once again, overtaken the pleadings,” the lawsuit reads.
The suit alleges that Price’s death “sounds remarkably like the less successful, but serious razor-blade attack on Joshua Waring,” who is awaiting trial on three counts of attempted murder in Costa Mesa.
Price was “involved in a minor altercation with another inmate” on Dec. 26, according to the lawsuit.
“During or after that altercation, Orange County Jail guards failed to protect, care for, provide assistance, provide emergency medical treatment, and failed to protect against further injury such that Kirk Price eventually died of his injuries,” the lawsuit alleges.
An Orange County Sheriff’s Department representative did not have an immediate response to the latest version of the lawsuit, which again alleges multiple abuses such as improper monitoring of inmate-attorney phone calls, as well as denial of proper prenatal care for pregnant inmates, including two women who say they lost their babies, mental health care and participation in religious services.
The plaintiffs allege that “the number of unlawfully monitored and recorded calls numbers at least in the tens of thousands and is likely in the hundreds of thousands.”
The phone service provider, Global Tel Link, has blamed the improper recordings of calls between attorneys and their clients, which are supposed to be private, on a software glitch during an update.
Plaintiff Ciera Stoetling, who had a miscarriage while in custody, told jail guards she was pregnant when she was booked and on May 12, 2018, told a jail nurse she was experiencing contractions, according to the lawsuit. Stoetling says she tried to get help later, pressing an emergency button in her cell.
“The guard on duty ignored this information and, more importantly, did not summon any aid,” the lawsuit alleges. “The emergency button was then pressed again for the second time due to plaintiff being in more pain. After a gross delay in excess of three hours with deliberate indifference for both Stoelting and Baby No. 1, county employees eventually decided to transfer Stoelting to the infirmary pod. She was told to drink eight cups of water a day and that she would see a doctor on Monday. This was Mother’s Day 2018.”
The lawsuit alleges the jail was “woefully understaffed and did not have appropriate or necessary medical care available.” The inmate later gave birth “while sitting on the toilet of her cell,” and lost her baby, the lawsuit alleges.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office in June concluded there was no wrongdoing involved in the death of Stoelting’s baby.
Inmate Jonathan Tieu, who was part of a daring Orange County Jail breakout in January 2016, alleges he was kept in isolation for two years, denied access to religious services and mental health care.
Plaintiff Sandra Quinones, who lost her baby, alleges her call for help while pregnant in custody was ignored for two hours. An ambulance was not called, and while deputies were taking her to a hospita,l they stopped for Starbucks on the way, according to the lawsuit.
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