A federal lawsuit filed against the former Texas County sheriff, his girlfriend overseeing the jail and Texas County government alleges an inmate desperately needing medical attention while his condition deteriorated was denied treatment.
The allegations are contained in a recently updated 32-page complaint in U.S. District Court in Springfield detailing an environment where Harry A. Scheina III, 39, sought treatment for a broken jaw incurred before incarceration at the Texas County Jail in Houston. It is one of two federal lawsuits currently filed in Springfield alleging lack of medical treatment. Other former inmates are known to have legal representation.
Attorneys for Scheina, who now is serving a sentence in a state prison, say their client not only was denied treatment in June and July 2017 as his condition worsened, but he didn’t receive a soft food diet until weeks later after he arrived at the jail due to an outstanding warrant. According to the lawsuit, Scheina was purposely given food difficult to eat and his demands for aid proved hopeless after family called worrying about his condition and the jail administrator, Jennifer Tomaszewski, was emboldened by a romantic relationship with former Texas County Sheriff James Sigman.
In a newspaper interview last year, Scheina said, “She (Tomaszewski) came in mainly with the attitude that said, ‘If you can talk, you can eat and if you can eat, you can just shut up.’”
Tomaszewski, Sigman and Texas County government are listed as defendants in the lawsuit first filed in July 2018 in Scheina’s handwriting from prison. It has since been bolstered with the addition of three attorneys to his team.
Scheina said in the updated five-count complaint that he was refused and obstructed from receiving treatment after entering the jail in June 2017. Tomaszewski directed scheduled medical appointments to be cancelled and Sigman wouldn’t transport him for treatment until he entered a guilty plea, he alleges.
Additionally, attorneys allege that Texas County has a long history of publicly saying it wasn’t obligated to pay for inmate care and “doesn’t provide reasonable and necessary care to jail inmates/detainees.” The lawsuit notes that the county racked up more than a $200,000 bill at its county hospital that went unpaid.
Tomaszewski and Sigman were indicted by a county grand jury in July 2018 and face numerous felonies after a one-year period where about four dozen employees left or were fired. Both are free on bond and await a trial. Sigman goes on trial April 3-4 in Rolla in a civil matter to determine his fitness amid allegations of misdeeds. A special prosecutor in Lawrence County oversees the cases.
In the document filed by Steelman and Gaunt of Rolla and Christopher J. Swatosh of Ava, Scheina says he was returning from a Springfield’s doctor visit when he was arrested on an outstanding Texas County warrant on June 5. He had been prescribed an antibiotic and pain medication and was to return for a second surgery after reinjuring his jaw bone.
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Documents allege Scheina told personnel about his planned surgery and a need for medication and a soft diet. Representatives of a county-hired medical unit later did administer the antibiotic and were told about the needed visit with an oral surgeon, according to the lawsuit.
During his incarceration, Scheina claims he daily complained about the pain and filed multiple grievances and medical requests. A jail nurse, hired by Advanced Correctional Healthcare Inc. under a contract with the county, scheduled an appointment July 6. Later, Sigman and Tomaszewski told Scheina that he wouldn’t get treatment unless he pled guilty and that there wouldn’t be any transportation to a doctor’s office and he might be facing segregated isolation unless the calls for medical attention stopped from his family. The lawsuit alleges Sigman and the county had a “policy or custom to refuse to pay for medical care for inmates” beyond their contract.
On July 7, one day after his already cancelled doctor visit in Springfield, he entered a guilty plea and received probation. Ten days later he underwent the second surgery.
Scheina seeks actual and punitive damages for indifference from the defendants as to his treatment and legal costs, as well as seeking an injunction ordering Texas County to provide sufficient funding for adequate care for inmates at the jail. An additional count seeks damages from Sigman for not supervising Tomaszewski.
All of the defendants are represented by Keck, Phillips & Wilson of Springfield, which was hired in June 2018 by Texas County.