ANOTHER CASE OF PEPPER SPRAY! After $900,000 settlement, county hit with another wrongful death lawsuit

8/12/2000 CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP)

A South Texas County which recently settled a $900,000 lawsuit for the death of an inmate who died while in custody at a jail has been hit with a similar case.

The family of Bobby Stuart, 28, who died at the Nueces County Jail Aug. 19, 1999, filed suit in a state district court Friday alleging the man died after being beaten, sprayed with Mace and confined in a restraining chair, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported in Saturday's editions. The suit, filed on behalf of Stuart's survivors - his common-law wife, Araseli Ramirez Stuart, of Pasadena, his mother Mary Stuart, and Norma Gine Gomez, the mother of the Stuarts' two children, all of Victoria - seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

Police arrested Stuart on Aug. 18, 1999, on charges of public intoxication and criminal mischief. The next day, he was beaten and strapped into the chair, where he later died, the lawsuit states. The Nueces County Medical Examiner ruled Stuart died of heart failure, but what caused the heart failure couldn't be determined by the autopsy and toxicological examination. The official cause of death is listed as undetermined.

Sheriff Larry Olivarez could not be reached for comment and Chief Deputy Jimmy Rodriguez and County Attorney Laura Garza Jimenez declined comment to the newspaper. "I haven't seen the actual case," Jimenez said. "Because it is pending litigation we really can't comment."

On Wednesday, the county and the family of Andrew Sokolinski, 32, who died in the Nueces County Jail Aug. 12, 1997, settled a federal wrongful death lawsuit that blamed prison guard abuse for triggering a heart attack that killed Sokolinski. Medical Examiner Dr. Lloyd White ruled that Sokolinski died of cardiac dysrhythmia - a disturbance of the normal heartbeat - after his struggle with jail guards.

He was arrested on suspicion of criminal mischief and marijuana possession. Tyner Little, an attorney representing the county, said Sokolinski was making a lot of noise in his cell and that he swung at guards when they responded and tried to quiet him down. Little said Sokolinski was combative and guards used reasonable force.

After three days of trial, the county and Julian Sokolinski, the inmate's father, reached a $900,000 settlement, plus attorney fees.