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January 16, 2009

Stark jail abused man with AIDS symptoms, he says

Lawsuit claims he was denied treatment and forced to wear a ‘hazmat’ suit

Canton--A gay New Orleans man is suing the Stark County sheriff and jail officers for denying him AIDS medication and treatment, keeping him in isolation, and other abuses while he was an inmate in 2005.

Roy Allen Haynes says the jail’s response to his symptoms of serious illness were to confine him to a cell with only a concrete slab to sleep on and force him to wear a stifling, full-body suit of the type used by hazardous-materials workers.

He filed his civil rights suit in federal court in 2007, alleging cruel and unusual punishment and dereliction of duty, among other offenses. It is now moving forward, with the first depositions at the end of the month. He is seeking $5.5 million in damages.

Haynes was arrested in mid-2000 for growing medical marijuana. During his trial, he skipped bond and went to New Orleans, so the court issued a warrant for his arrest.

Almost five years later, he was arrested in Louisiana and brought back to Ohio. Before leaving, the head nurse of the Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana gave the officers who were transporting Haynes a two-week supply of his HIV and other medications, a copy of his medical records and a prescription card.

According to the suit, when Haynes got to the Stark County Jail, he requested a wheelchair “because I was so weak after the trip from vomiting, but was denied a wheelchair.”

“During my intake process, I went through a nurse’s screening with Nurse Jane Doe 1, during which time her and I discussed my AIDS status, went through my medical records, HIV issues, my medication . . .” the filing continues. “On July 21, 2005, Nurse Jane Doe 1 threw away all of my AIDS and related medications without any explanation.”

“When I asked her about this she said, ‘She didn’t know what one of the pills were,’ even though she had a signed prescription card from Dr. French in Louisiana.”

Haynes’ lawsuit, which he filed without legal representation, goes on, “No medications were issued as a replacement for any of the medications thrown away by Nurse Jane Doe 1.”

Later that day, he was told to bring his mattress to another ward; he was being removed from the infirmary. Again he asked for a wheelchair and told the officer he was too weak to carry the mattress. According to Haynes, the guard denied him a wheelchair and told him if he couldn’t carry his mattress, he “could do without one.”

He was put in a punitive segregation cell without an explanation--when he asked, he was told, “Shut the fuck up and get into the cell.” It wasn’t until late that night that another officer brought him mattresses and sheets. She asked him, “Why are you in punitive segregation, and why was an entire ward cleared out for you?”

The bright light in his cell was kept on at all times, Haynes says, and food was shoved through a tray slot at the bottom of the door, which much of it falling off the tray.

Three days after being admitted, he was finally given a new jumpsuit and his cell was cleaned. When he returned to his cell, the bleach fumes were so strong “they burned my eyes and lungs badly. I had to wet my towel (I was finally given one for ‘laundry day’) and place it over my face.”

Later, a doctor came and looked in his ears through the food tray slot in the door. When Haynes told the doctor that his thrush infection was in his throat, he was ignored.

When he was allowed a phone call, he was required to wear “a hazmat-like suit” before he was let out of his cell. He called his sister-in-law, but when he described his denial of proper medical treatment, he was ordered to hang up the phone and return to his cell.

When he was being taken to court on July 27, 2005, he was again forced to put on the “hazmat” suit, despite the high temperatures. Haynes began vomiting and defecating in the suit because of the effects of the heat on his weakened system.

He was given a new jumpsuit and put back in his cell, and a nurse informed him that EMTs were coming to take him to the hospital. She gave him another “hazmat” suit to put on.

When the paramedics arrived, Haynes writes, they said, “Why is he in that? What you people trying to do, kill this man?”

One of the female guards protested the EMT cutting the suit off of Haynes, but he did so anyway, and took him to Aultman Hospital.

The judge in his case allowed him to go back to New Orleans for a week to get more HIV medications, and when he returned, the Stark County Jail officers again required him to wear the bulky suit for transfer. He was in his new jail for a half-hour before being sent to the Ohio State University Medical Center, then was transferred to Pickaway Correction Camp’s Frazier Health Clinic.

Haynes has since completed his sentence and moved back to New Orleans.

Attorney Caryn Peterson of Oldham, Kramer, DeSaussure, Oby & Gerney in Akron is now representing him, and they successfully fought a motion to dismiss the case, which names as defendants Stark County Sheriff Timothy Swanson and a number of as-yet-unnamed jail staffers, including Nurse Jane Doe 1 and the jail’s medical director.

“At the point when I was almost dead, I was on my way to court, I was throwing up all over the cop car,” Haynes said in a telephone call earlier this month.

He said that it was pretty clear to everyone but the jail personnel that he was really ill.

“I got an ‘own recognizance’ bond that was unsigned after I was on the run for five years,” he noted, pointing out that the judge clearly knew he needed proper medical treatment.

At Aultman Hospital, county social workers told him they couldn’t do much to help him since he was not a Stark County resident. That was when “Judge Sinclair told me to go back to Louisiana and get more medicine.”

Even though the suit was filed a year and a half ago, said Peterson, “We are just in the beginning stages now, having gotten past the motion to dismiss.”

The deposition of Sheriff Swanson is scheduled for the last week of January.

The case is before Judge John R. Adams of the Ohio Northern District federal court.       


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