Suit says man beaten to death in parish jail

St. Mary Parish Law Enforcement Center. in March.
(The Daily Review Photo by Preston Gill)

Baldwin man was in jail for failure to appear on traffic violation

A lawsuit against the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office filed in 16th Judicial District Court alleges a man was beaten by unknown assailants in the Centerville parish jail and died from his injuries after being arrested for failure to appear on a traffic violation.
“Additionally the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Department failed to properly and adequately investigate, hold accountable and/or arrest the person(s) who caused” the death, the suit states.
The suit states Anthony Wilson, 41, of Baldwin, had no physical injuries or illness when he was arrested April 26, 2013, as a passenger in a vehicle driven by his cousin.
The next day, while in the custody of the sheriff, Wilson lost consciousness due to “blunt force trauma to the head,” sustained multiple bruises and abrasions “and lacerations to eyebrow, inside lip, and injury to his knees, arms, etc.,” the suit states.
A news release from St. Mary Parish Sheriff Mark Hebert issued at the time of Wilson’s death said “deputies were not made aware of any medical condition” when Wilson was booked and jailers were alerted the next night “by other detainees that Mr. Wilson had apparently collapsed while in the common area of the cell block.”
The release said Wilson was taken to Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center emergency room in Houma by deputies. He was returned to the prison where he “was placed in an observation area … monitored in person by medical staff along with correctional officers,” the release stated.
The sheriff’s news release explained Wilson’s final day stating that on Tuesday morning “while checking Mr. Wilson’s status, he was discovered by deputies to be incoherent and in need of medical assistance … medical staff rendered assistance and Mr. Wilson was transferred by ambulance to Franklin Foundation Hospital for further examination, testing, and treatment. The St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office released Mr. Wilson from custody to help facilitate his treatment and eliminate the need for transport back to the jail. The Sheriff’s Office was informed at approximately 5:30 p.m. that Mr. Wilson had passed away. Sheriff’s office has no information as to the cause of death.”
Baton Rouge attorney Alfreda Bester, representing the family in the lawsuit, questioned the decision to take Wilson all the way to Houma for initial treatment.
“They chose not to take Mr. Wilson to closer hospitals in Franklin or Morgan City. We don’t know why,” Bester said. “But then on the day he died they brought him to Franklin for treatment.”
“The family finds it incredible, unbelievable actually, that this man (Wilson) perfectly healthy and uninjured” could have died the way he did, Bester said. “Mr. Wilson was taken into custody and he never came out of jail … He was battered from the top of his head to his knees … The family cannot believe he just collapsed and died.”
Bester said the coroner’s report lists blunt force trauma as a cause of death.
“Mr. Wilson was not a violent man and there is no indication he was ever a violent man,” Bester said. “We do not have all the details, but we know that something happened in that jail.”
The suit contends that “the assault and battery … could only have been committed by deputies” or other sheriff employees or by “violent inmates who were not properly monitored and/or supervised by the SMPSO.”
Two hours after being beaten Wilson was taken to the Houma hospital, 56 miles and an hour away, “still actively bleeding,” the suit states.
St. Mary Parish Law Enforcement Center officials did not adequately monitor and protect Wilson upon his return to the jail, the suit claims.
The suit for damages is filed on behalf of Wilson’s minor son Tyren Abraham as represented by his mother, Tiesha Abraham, and on behalf of Wilson’s mother, Mary Wilson Pickney. A jury trial is requested seeking unspecified monetary compensation.
Named as defendants are the sheriff’s office, its insurers, unknown officers and employees of the sheriff.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Traci Landry said no comment is given by the sheriff on pending litigation.

By PRESTON GILL pgill@daily-review.com

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