By Crescenzo Vellucci Jr.
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
SACRAMENTO, CA – The family of Antonio Thomas, who was found comatose in his Sacramento County Jail cell in 2019 in what Black Lives Matter Sacramento called an “in-custody murder,” is receiving a $1.5 million settlement from Sacramento County, said civil rights attorney Mark Merin this week.
In a press statement, Merin said, “Antonio was a vulnerable, mentally ill man who was misclassified and placed in a cell with a (cellmate) who went on to kill him. Not only did the jail fail to properly classify Antonio, but they ignored the warnings of trustees that the (cell placement) placed Antonio at risk and that the cellmates were incompatible.”
Thomas, who was in the Sacramento jail after allegedly failing to check in with a probation officer, died 42 days after being beaten by another inmate at the jail.
The taxpayer-funded settlement will go to Thomas’ family, who waited months to hear what really happened in the jail, according to social justice activists and BLM at the time.
“It should not have taken three years for the county to recognize its responsibility and finally to compensate the family for their loss,” Merin told the media.
“The jail is a deadly place where inmates are permitted not only to assault and kill each other but to commit suicide undetected and undeterred by staff. Until the sheriff takes hold of the operation and management of that jail, it will continue to rank among the most deadly jails in the state of California…there’s no indication” the jail is getting safer, added Merin.
Thomas allegedly was beaten by his cellmate, a convicted carjacker and child molester who was in jail on a murder charge in connection with the violent beating death of a south Sacramento man in April 2019, according to official reports.
The Sheriff’s Office noted a Sacramento District Attorney investigation found no criminal misconduct on the part of jail personnel, and blamed any wrongdoing on an “overwhelming number of inmates with mental health issues, combined with an increasingly violent criminal population (creating) an unstable and unpredictable dynamic.”
Thomas’ cellmate, Joshua Vaden, is still in custody, awaiting a trial for another murder. His record includes carjacking and sexual assault of a child under 14.
Prosecutors declined to files charges against Vaden in the killing of Thomas, citing it would be a difficult case to win in court.
Thomas, said his family, had a history of minor cases, including loitering, but had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. When jailed for previous offenses he was housed in a medical unit. This time he was housed with prisoners on the 5th floor, many of whom reportedly were “subject to murder charges.”
News reports suggest the dispute between Thomas and Vaden started when they had an argument over bunks, and escalated. Deputies found Thomas in a pool of blood and vomit. And they found blood on Vaden’s knuckles. Thomas was taken to UC Davis Medical Center, where he remained in a coma until he died.