Man sues over son's 2008 suicide at the Washtenaw County Jail
Washtenaw County Jail officials failed to take reasonable actions to prevent a man from hanging himself in a maximum-security cell two years ago, a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges.
Robert Robertson is suing the county, former sheriff Daniel Minzey and numerous sheriff’s deputies over the death of his son, Rodney. The suit seeks at least $500,000.
Curtis Hedger, the county’s corporation counsel, declined to comment this morning.
Rodney Robertson, who was jailed after a domestic dispute at his Ypsilanti Township home, hanged himself with a torn bed sheet attached to a light fixture on Aug. 12, 2008, the suit says. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead the following afternoon.
According to the lawsuit, jail officials failed to respond to warning signs that Robertson might make a suicide attempt. The day he died, the suit says, Robertson told two relatives in separate phone conversations recorded by jail officials that he wasn’t going to make it through the night.
He was crying during one conversation and said he "already tried to commit suicide in his cell," the suit says.
The lawsuit also says Robertson told a deputy during his Aug. 11, 2008 arrest that he had been off his medications to treat bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder for three months and was suicidal. According to the suit, Robertson told the deputy he was waiting for a Supplemental Security Income check to refill a prescription.
The suit claims officers should have notified their superiors after the phone conversations Robertson had with his relatives or put him in an observation cell.
In failing to do so, the suit alleges, they "acted so reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern" whether Robertson would injure himself.
Four other defendants named in the suit and listed as officers at the jail are: Curt Graber, Thomas Arnett, Loree Kunath and Gerrod Visel. Other officers whose identities are not known to the plaintiff also are being sued.
Lee Higgins covers crime and courts at AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at (734) 623-2527 and e-mail at email@example.com.