The Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office has settled a lawsuit for $225,000 with the family of a man who died after spending 17 days in solitary confinement on a pair of misdemeanors his family claims he never was formally booked for.
Filed by the Law Offices of L. Clayton Burgess, the suit names Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mike Neustrom and Lafayette Parish Correctional Center Director Rob Reardon in the wrongful death and false imprisonment of John Horace Howard Jr.
Howard was arrested for disturbing the peace Nov. 29, 2012, after yelling profanities at several people on the street, according to an arrest affidavit. When asked by deputies to stop the profanity, Howard spat on an officer. He was taken to the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center and after spending time in a temporary booking cell, was put in solitary confinement.
The suit alleges he was deprived of medication for his mental illness, high blood pressure and borderline diabetes, all of which he reportedly told deputies about during a Nov. 19 arrest. According to the booking sheet from that previous arrest, Howard
Throughout his final stay at LPCC, the lawsuit alleges Howard was never booked, never brought before a judge and never appointed counsel. Many of the booking and health screening documents obtained by The Daily Advertiser of the Nov. 29 arrest were left blank.
Behavioral documentation from the LPSO showed Howard would regularly refuse meals while in custody. He also allegedly tried to flood his cell by leaving the faucet on. Correction deputies shut the water off in his cell in response, and would flush his toilet for him and bring him water.
Howard was found dead in his cell the night of Dec. 15 after succumbing to a heart attack.
Phone records produced by the LPSO showed that the mental health hospital that previously took care of Howard offered to take him upon release from LPCC, the lawsuit stated, but Howard wasn’t eligible for release due to incomplete booking.
Howard would scream, smear his food on the walls and often talk to imaginary people, the lawsuit states. He told LPCC employees he had been pregnant for two months and that he was due to give birth to Jesus on Dec. 25. He said the father of the baby was singer Toni Braxton, who he contested was actually not a black woman, but a white man. He would also sign papers as “Sabrina the warrior and giver of sperm.”
“The circumstances surrounding his death are disgusting and inhumane,” Burgess said.
Howard’s cousin, Marie Angelle, told deputies in a phone call Howard was stable until his mother died five months before his Nov. 29, 2012, arrest. He was in and out of both mental and behavioral health hospitals in the two months prior to his final arrest.
Deputies arrested Howard twice in months prior on separate instances of disturbing the peace.
Law firm Neuner Pate provided counsel to the LPSO for the case. Attorney Sara Buggs with the law firm said in reaching an agreement to settle, LPSO expressly denied liability.