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Lawsuit filed in inmate’s death

The mother of a Lawrence County Jail inmate who died in custody has filed a lawsuit against the sheriff, members of his staff and the county EMS.

Julie Conley filed the suit on behalf of the wife and two children of her son, Steven Conley, who died on Dec. 15, 2012, at the jail of acute myocardial infarction, according to the Franklin County Coroner’s Office that conducted the autopsy.

Named are Sheriff Jeff Lawless, jail doctor Dr. Rodolfo Canos, corrections officers Derek Newman, Robert Curnell, Brad Layman, Mike Mosley, Mark Majher and Sue Mays, jail nurse Shawn McDaniel, the EMS and EMS employees Peter Lunsford and Bryce McKee.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants failed “to provide adequate medical care to Steven Conley when he complained of severe chest pains and shortness of breath. …”

Two sets of defendants point fingers at each other.”

Corrections officers say the EMS decided not to transport Conley to the hospital after observing him at the jail, according to the lawsuit. The two EMS personnel claim that they were told not to take the inmate to the hospital by jail officers.

Conley, 23, of Kitts Hill, had been housed in the county jail on charges of first-degree complicity to aggravated robbery and fourth-degree trafficking in drugs. He was being held on a $100,000 cash or surety bond. He had been arrested in October of 2012 after a raid at the Southern Hills Motel in South Point.

The Lawrence Drug and Major Crimes Task Force had conducted a search at the hotel that resulted in two arrests, 132 oxycodone pills, nine Xanax pills, various drug paraphernalia and $466 in cash.

Conley had pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

According to the lawsuit Conley had an opiate addiction and his family had sought help from law enforcement, who arrested him on Oct. 10 on felony charges.

“His family and Mr. Conley himself expected that by serving time in jail, Mr. Conley could overcome his addiction and restore his health,” the suit states.

At the time of his booking, the jail’s medical screening form stated that the inmate seemed to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Two months later, on Dec. 13, Conley complained of chest and arm pain and he asked to see a doctor, according to the suit.

“Multiple inmates heard Mr. Conley say he was dying,” the suit alleges. “Defendant corrections officers accused Mr. Conley of faking his illness.”

The next day Conley allegedly made his second complaint that he was sick as well as telling his mother about his situation. By 8:42 a.m. Canos was at the jail, but “provided no treatment to Mr. Conley,” the suit states.

About seven hours later Conley made another complaint. Two hours later two corrections officers put the inmate in the drunk tank because he still felt ill.

“While he was in the tank, Mr. Conley screamed out of the tank door in a lot of pain and Defendant Officer Curnell yelled to him to ‘shut up.’ Mr. Conley told the Defendant corrections officers that he was dying,” the suit alleges.

At 10 p.m. on Dec. 14, the inmate was put back in the general population. Throughout the early morning hours of Dec. 15 corrections officers allegedly saw Conley having trouble breathing and spitting up.

At 4:30 a.m. the EMTs came to the jail.

“The corrections officers told them not to transport Mr. Conley to the hospital, but to simply check him to make sure he can wait for the nurse to arrive at 6 a.m.,” the suit alleges. “Contradicting the EMTs, Defendant Officers Curnell and Mosley deny they advised the EMTs to leave Mr. Conley at the Jail.”

At 8:48 a.m. the EMS responded to a second call at the jail.

“Mr. Conley was unresponsive when they arrived minutes later,” the suit states.

Conley was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center-Ironton Campus where he was pronounced dead.

The suit alleges that the conduct of Newman, Curnell, Layman Mosley, Majher, Mays, Lunsford, McKee and Canos “was negligent, reckless, wanton, intentional, knowing and deliberately indifferent to Mr. Conley’s serious medical need.”

Both Lawless and Buddy Fry, director of the county EMS, declined to make a comment.

In a response filed by Doug Holthus, Columbus trial attorney for the EMS and the two employees, allegations are denied.

Cincinnati-based attorney for the county, Larry Barbiere, said “Our policy is not to comment on pending litigation. I will say Lawrence County disputes the claims in the complaint and intends to defend the case very vigorously. Beyond that I have no comment.”

The plaintiff seeks a jury trial, and unnamed compensatory and punitive damages.