Two Louisiana men, former jail supervisors, were sentenced today to five years in prison and over four years in prison respectively for being deliberately indifferent to an inmate’s serious medical needs.
As a result of this civil rights offense, 19-year-old Nimali Henry died in the custody of the St. Bernard Parish Prison (SBPP) on April 1, 2014. Henry died after she failed to receive medical treatment for her rare blood disorder and other medical conditions during the ten days she was incarcerated.
Former SBPP Captain Andre Dominick, 61, of New Orleans, was sentenced to five years in prison. Dominick previously pleaded guilty to violating Henry’s civil rights under color of law. In pleading guilty, Dominick admitted that he knew that Henry had serious medical needs that required medication. Dominick acknowledged that he had reviewed Henry’s written request for help, in which she wrote that, if she did not continue the medical treatment her doctor had prescribed, there was a 90% chance she would die. Dominick also spoke with Henry about her medical condition; spoke with Henry’s social worker, who confirmed her medical needs; and observed Henry’s deteriorating physical condition while she was in jail. However, despite knowing Henry’s plight, Dominick – who was also acting as the medical officer during Henry’s incarceration – failed to take any reasonable steps to get her the medical attention she needed, as he was required to do under the law.
Former SBPP Corporal Timothy Williams, 41, of New Orleans, was sentenced to 57 months in prison. Williams also previously pleaded guilty to violating Henry’s civil rights under color of law. In his guilty plea, Williams admitted that he knew from his conversations with Henry and her fellow inmates that Henry had serious medical conditions that required medication. Williams also personally observed Henry as she grew sicker throughout her incarceration. However, Williams failed to take any reasonable steps to get Henry necessary medical care for her serious medical needs, as the law required him to do. In his factual basis, Williams further admitted that, rather than obtain medical care for Henry, he placed her in a holding cell, a placement typically reserved for misbehaving inmates, in order to discourage her from making future medical complaints. He also told Henry’s fellow inmates to stop requesting help on Henry’s behalf.
“Nimali Henry’s death was not the result of neglect or a lapse of judgment. Her death was the slow, painful, and completely preventable result of the deliberate choices made by these defendants, each of whom knew that he had the constitutional duty to provide necessary medical care for a young woman who was completely dependent on them for help while she was in their custody,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Prosecuting corrections officers who intentionally violate their constitutional responsibilities is a critical part of the Department’s mission.”
“The protection of all of our citizens’ civil rights is an essential part of our Constitution,” said U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “Violation of these entitlements, especially in this case by the correctional officers sworn to protect the rights of inmates, erodes public confidence in our correctional system. The public must be able to trust that correctional officers are fulfilling their duties honestly and are truthful during the course of federal investigations or face the consequences of their actions. Our office, along with the Department of Justice, the FBI, state and local law enforcement agencies will continue to investigate and prosecute any violations of our citizens’ civil rights.”
“Captain Andre Dominick and Corporal Timothy Williams were responsible for the welfare of inmates at the St. Bernard Parish Prison.” said Special Agent in Charge Bryan A. Vorndran for the FBI New Orleans Field Office. “Correctional officers have a sworn duty to ensure that inmates are protected, rather than abused or neglected. Their actions are a disgrace to all correctional officers who serve ethically and continue to maintain high moral standards throughout our correctional facilities. Because of the choices each defendant made, Nimali Henry failed to get the care and attention that she needed to address her known medical conditions, ultimately resulting in her death. The FBI New Orleans Field Office is appreciative of its partnerships with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Louisiana and we remain committed to protecting the rights of all Americans, to include those incarcerated.”
On March 10, two former SBBP Deputies, Lisa Vaccarella and Debra Becnel, were sentenced for their roles in covering up the circumstances of Henry’s death.
This case was investigated by the FBI and was prosecuted jointly by Trial Attorney Christine M. Siscaretti of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chandra Menon and Tracey N. Knight for the Eastern District of Louisiana.