MILWAUKEE (CN) – Milwaukee County prosecutors on Wednesday charged a jail health care contractor with falsifying records about the dehydration death of an inmate who was deprived of water for seven days.
Florida-based Armor Correctional Health Services Inc. was charged with seven misdemeanor counts of falsifying health care records, including those of 38-year-old Terrill Thomas, who was found dead lying naked on the floor of his cell in April 2016, just 10 days after being arrested, because Milwaukee County jail staff cut off water to his cell.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office claims Armor staff lied about checking on Thomas while the water to his cell was turned off.
The criminal complaint filed Wednesday by Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley says an investigator’s review of video surveillance in the jail compared to health records revealed that medical staff did not check on Thomas like they claimed to have done.
“[The] comparison showed Armor Correctional employees either walking by Mr. Thomas’ cell without stopping or never appearing at his cell at all, when, at the same time, the employees recorded they medically assessed Mr. Thomas,” according to the complaint, which is based on a review of evidence by investigator Robert Stelter.
In one instance, an employee allegedly fabricated blood pressure and pulse readings that were never performed on Thomas. The 11-page complaint includes screenshots of the allegedly falsified records.
“Had Armor Correctional medical staff actually performed the assessments that they falsely recorded in Mr. Thomas' patient health care records, medical staff may have identified Mr. Thomas' fatal medical distress," the complaint states.
Investigator Stelter broadened his review to include other inmates near Thomas’ cell and says he found a common “pattern and practice” of “repeated false patient health care records entries by multiple Armor Correctional employees.”
Armor said in a statement that it has not yet reviewed the allegations, but "would never condone any criminal conduct by any of our employees."
"Our employee handbook, our policies and procedures, and our continuous training firmly states that patient care is first and foremost," the company said, adding that it "intends to vigorously defend all claims."
The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment.
Last week, prosecutors filed criminal charges against three jail employees involved in Thomas’ death. An investigation revealed that Thomas’ water was shut off as punishment for flooding his cell by stuffing a mattress in the toilet.
Thomas was arrested by Milwaukee police on April 14, 2016, after officers responded to reports of shots being fired at the Potawatomi Casino. He was charged and transferred to the Milwaukee County jail the next day.
Thomas’ family says he was having a mental breakdown at the time. They filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit nearly a year after his death against Armor, former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, Milwaukee County, the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, an inspector and two corrections officers.
A Milwaukee County jury recommended in May 2017 that seven jail staffers be charged for his death.
Only three of the seven ended up being charged: Nancy Evans, Kashka Meadors and James Ramsey-Guy. Evans faces one charge of felony misconduct and one misdemeanor obstruction charge. Meadors and Ramsey-Guy each face one count of felony neglect.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner ruled Thomas’ death a homicide by dehydration, but no one has been charged with murder.
Prior to his resignation last year to join a Super PAC supporting President Donald Trump, former Sheriff Clarke, an outspoken conservative, was under fire for his management of the county jail, where Thomas was one of four people to die during a six-month period.
Clarke was also sued in December 2016 after a newborn baby was found dead in the jail. The baby’s mother claims jail staffers ignored her cries for help during and after labor.Follow @EmilyZantowNews
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.