Harrison County, Mississippi supervisors announced that the county has reached a $3.5 million settlement for its part in a lawsuit brought by the family of Jessie Lee Williams Jr., an inmate beaten to death at the jail nearly 17 months ago.
Supervisors said $1 million will be covered by insurance, but the county will have to issue bonds to pay for the rest of the settlement.
Williams, 40, was beaten after being booked on misdemeanor charges on Feb. 4, 2006. He died two days later.
Two ex-jailers have admitted their roles in the assault in a related criminal case that remains under investigation by state and federal agents, according to an article on www.sunherald.com.
Four former Harrison County jail employees — Rick Gaston, Daniel Evans, Karl W. Stolze and Ryan Teel — are scheduled to go on trial Aug. 6 on federal criminal charges of conspiring to deprive the civil rights of inmates. An indictment accuses all four of conspiring to use excessive, unnecessary force and covering it up through false reports or no reports at all.
Teel also is accused in the beating of Williams.
Williams’ family seeks $150 million in compensatory and punitive damages in the civil lawsuit, which also names several other defendants who have not settled in the case. Among the other defendants are the city of Gulfport and a Gulfport police officer; the American Correctional Association, which has twice awarded accreditation to the Harrison County jail; and Health Assurance LLC, a private health care company that provides medical service at the Harrison County jail.
The $3.5 million settlement relieves county parties from the civil lawsuit, which is set for trial in August 2008.
The settlement is on behalf of Harrison County, its board of supervisors, the sheriff’s department, Harrison County Sheriff George H. Payne Jr., and current and former sheriff’s employees. The county officials could be subpoenaed to testify if the civil case goes to trial next year.
Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com
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