By The Vanguard Staff
OAKLAND, CA – Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price Wednesday officially announced her office will conduct an investigation into the death of an Oakland man left for dead for days at Santa Rita Jail, and consider if sheriff’s deputies at the jail or Wellpath nurses should be held criminally responsible.
The family attorney for Maurice Monk, 45, who was found dead Nov. 15, 2021, said Wednesday at least 68 people have died in custody at the Santa Rita jail. She has filed a civil lawsuit against the county and Nashville-based Wellpath.
Oakland-based civil rights attorney Adanté Pointer noted, “The family and the community welcome this investigation into the death of Maurice Monk. Justice is long overdue for his family. We anticipate the district attorney will file charges once she is able to get her hands on the true facts around how Mr. Monk died.”
Pointer charged, “We know multiple jail guards and medical staff from Wellpath — which has a $250 million contract for medical services at the jail — saw him lying face-down, unmoving, in a growing puddle of bodily fluids, for days. This goes beyond negligence. It was criminal.”
“Monk’s death is a horrific tragedy for this community and his family,” Price said. “And the number of deaths at this jail is unacceptable,” noting her predecessor’s probe into the death left “many unanswered questions.”
Zach Linowitz, deputy district attorney, said he began looking into Monk’s death, again in March. His office has not been able to get the “basic investigative materials” he sought from Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez but she’s recently said she’d provide that to him by Nov. 17, according to a story on KTVU News.
“I’m happy they’re looking into this,” said Ty Clarke, one of the attorneys representing Monk’s children in a suit that just settled with Alameda County for $7 million. “Much more needs to be done. We encourage the DA to look at Wellpath employees as well.”
KTVU reports Monk “was a father and security guard who suffered from schizoaffective disorder and who was taken to jail after a missed court appearance for verbally threatening a bus driver when he refused to wear a mask during the pandemic.”
And, in “Exclusive video obtained by KTVU showed that deputies and nurses threw medication into Monk’s jail cell and left him food trays, but no one had physically gone inside his room to find out why he hadn’t been moving, eating, taking his pills or going outside for recreation time for three to four days.”
KTVU said, “Jail policy mandates that deputies check on people in the mental health unit, where Monk had been taken, every 30 minutes. Body camera video from inside the jail shows Monk had been lying there prone, half naked with a pool of urine at the foot of his bed, for days. In fact, he had been there so long that the ink imprint of his jail shirt had stained his chest. Stacks of uneaten food trays and pills lay scattered on the floor.”
KTVU added that “new allegations are surfacing for the first time that deputies doctored the books to make it seem like they were checking in on him, when in fact, they did not provide any meaningful care.
“In addition, an internal sheriff’s investigation found that some deputies forged the wellness check timelines and failed to identify plenty of signs that Monk had been in medical distress, according to the federal lawsuit against the county.”
KTVU reported it was “unclear” if the commander at the jail at the time had disciplined any of the deputies involved or named in the civil lawsuit.
“And the county has refused to release any Internal Affairs records into this case, saying they do not fall under any police transparency disclosure laws,” said KTVU in its coverage.
KTVU also said that earlier this year “Price charged two other deputies with falsifying records in connection with the April 3, 2021, suicide of Vinetta Martin at Santa Rita Jail. Those deputies were supposed to conduct direct visual observation checks every 30 minutes on Martin.
“But prosecutors charged the two deputies with doctoring the logbooks to make it appear as though they followed the procedure for direct visual observation…video evidence shows the deputies repeatedly failed to check on Martin for extended periods, sometimes as long as one hour and 47 minutes, contrary to their certifications, according to the district attorney’s office,” added KTVU, noting the charged deputies pleaded not guilty.