Two St. Louis County men filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Wednesday alleging that they were attacked in the St. Charles County jail and that inadequate medical care caused lasting damage.
One says his attacker was a guard. The other says a guard allowed an attacker into his cell.
Spokeswoman Mary Enger said in an email that St. Charles County “takes seriously its responsibility to the hundreds of inmates placed in custody by the courts each year. The County will actively review the allegations and vigorously defend this matter.”
Enger also said the county “strives for the highest level of care” for inmates.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis by lawyers with ArchCity Defenders and the Khazaeli Wyrsch law firm against jail staff, St. Charles County and Larry Crawford, director of the Department of Corrections.
It says that Eric Smith, 36, of St. Louis, turned himself in to police on an outstanding traffic violation charge last year. He was sentenced to 12 days in jail and a $75 fine after being unable to pay his initial fine, the complaint says.
While in jail and after another inmate tried to start a fight, correctional officer Clinton Graebner grabbed Smith from behind and slammed him to the ground, hitting Smith’s head against a metal stool, the lawsuit says.
The guard who took Smith to the hospital told medical staff that Smith’s injury was minor, preventing him from getting proper treatment, the suit says. Jail staff also ignored his pleas for more medical help, the suit says.
When Smith finally had an MRI, doctors spotted a potentially fatal “chronic subdural hematoma” and operated to fix the problem, the suit says, but he still suffers from the aftereffects of the injury.
Alleadhin Qandah, 29, of St. Louis County, was arrested in March 2014 and held in the jail for at least 11 months. During that time, he was improperly held in solitary confinement, mocked as a “terrorist” and “camel jockey” for being Muslim and attacked by an inmate, the suit says.
Qandah’s attacker, who had threatened him before, asked a guard to unlock Qandah’s cell door and attacked Qandah when his request was granted, the suit says.
While in jail, Qandah lost his home and his girlfriend. He was unable to make calls, write letters or speak with relatives while in solitary, the suit says.
Qandah eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and a sentence of probation to get out of jail, the suit says.
Qandah suffers from mood swings, night terrors, anxiety and paranoia due to the prolonged time in isolation and headaches and other health problems from the attack.
The suit says the jail has a “culture characterized by a lack of training, supervision, and discipline that has led to the repeated victimization of inmates,” citing other lawsuits that claim a variety of unconstitutional practices by the jail, including unsanitary conditions, inmate attacks and denial of medical care.
One mentions a lawsuit filed by the family of inmate Robert Breeding, who died in 2013. That case was settled last year for $75,000.
Nassim Benchaabane of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.