Orange County supervisors Tuesday approved a $200,000 settlement with the mother of a 37-year-old man with schizophrenia who died of a fentanyl overdose while in Orange County Jail.
The May 23, 2019, death of Anthony Aceves drew criticism and protests from Orange County activists.
Aceves’ mother, Diana Alvarez, filed a federal lawsuit against the county on Halloween in 2019.
“It was a very difficult case,” said Alvarez’s attorney, Humberto Guizar. “For that case it was difficult to prove liability.”
Regarding the size of the settlement, Guizar said, “It’s better than not getting anything for a family.”
There was also value in his client finding out through the legal process what happened to her son, Guizar said.
“The bottom line is we wanted to find out what happened to him and how he died,” Guizar said.
Aceves’ jailers “should have been supervising him” more closely, Guizar said.
More attention should be placed on all inmates with addictions, Guizar said.
“It’s a recurring problem there” at the county’s jails, Guizar said.
“They need to have a better system” to help inmates kick an addiction and remain clean and sober, Guizar said.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office in April of last year concluded Aceves’ jailers at the Theo Lacy Jail were not criminally culpable in the inmate’s death.
Aceves was arrested on a probation violation on April 22, 2019.
During his booking it was documented he was diagnosed as schizoaffective and was prescribed three medications, but “admitted being non-compliant with treatment since he was last released from custody on Feb. 20, 2019,” according to a letter from Deputy District Attorney Robbie Goodkin, who prepared a report to Sheriff Don Barnes.
Aceves “admitted daily use of methamphetamine and tetrahydrocannabino (THC) while out of custody,” Goodkin wrote.
The inmate also told booking staff that he tried to kill himself eight times, Goodkin said.
“The last time was by overdose a couple of weeks prior to his arrest,” Goodkin said. “He had previously attempted suicide by jumping off a pier and by eating heroin.”
Aceves also said he had plans to slash his wrists, the prosecutor wrote.
Aceves was placed in protective custody, but then was released into “regular housing” two days later, Goodkin wrote.
Aceves signed a “release of liability” letter when he refused to take his medication on May 18, 2019, Goodkin wrote.
However, Aceves appeared to take his medication on May 22, 2019. Later, another inmate “appeared to pass something under” the cell door where Aceves was housed with another inmate, Goodkin wrote.
Aceves’ cell mate said he “rarely slept” and would “talk to himself and laugh out loud all night,” Goodkin wrote. However, on the night of May 22, 2019, he “went to sleep and snored loudly,” his cell mate said, according to Goodkin.
During an inmate count just before 5 a.m., May 23, 2019, deputies found Aceves unresponsive, Goodkin said. Four inmates said the objects passed under the doors of various other inmates the night before were “cookies,” Goodkin said.
Another inmate said he did not know “if Aceves overdosed or committed suicide,” Goodkin wrote.
A pathologist concluded Aceves died of acute fentanyl intoxication and that it was an accident, Goodkin wrote.