Texas County’s associate circuit judge jailed two grandparents and their son-in-law and forced them to take drug tests, according to an ACLU lawsuit filed Monday. Moreover, an ankle cuff that jail staff placed on the son-in-law, who is diabetic, led to the amputation of part of his foot, the suit claims.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri in Springfield, says that Texas County Associate Judge Douglas Gaston was angered by the responses he got from Norma and Arthur Rogers in court. The Rogers were attending a hearing on the custody of their granddaughter on June 20, 2017; they were prepared to offer to take care of her. The other set of grandparents were claiming that the granddaughter’s parents were unfit to care for her, the suit says.
The Rogers’ son-in-law, William Hale, was also in court, the ACLU says. None of the three had a lawyer. During the hearing, Gaston threatened Arthur Rogers with a penalty of “a cell with bars” if he interrupted again. Gaston then ordered a full hearing for July, suggesting the Rogers get a lawyer, according to the suit.
After the hearing, Gaston ordered a deputy sheriff to take the Rogers and Hale to the jail for drug testing, the suit says. Apparently angered by a “look” Arthur Rogers gave him, Gaston ordered Rogers held overnight in jail, saying, “You just bought yourself 24 hours in the Texas County Jail for that look,” the suit says.
All were forced to urinate for the drug tests, the suit says. Hale and Norma Rogers, Wright County residents, spent almost eight hours in jail, the suit says, most of the time cuffed to a metal bench. Hale’s ankle cuff caused an ulcer, which eventually led to the amputation of part of his foot because of a staphylococcus aureus infection, the suit says. Hale also has hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The lawsuit says Gaston also ordered another person held in similar circumstances. The ACLU says Gaston has a reputation for his “temper and for mixing his personal opinions with the law.”
Gaston said in an email to a St. Louis newspaper that he could not comment on the suit, citing “canons of Judicial Ethics.”
ACLU of Missouri Legal Director Tony Rothert said in a statement Tuesday announcing the suit that detaining, drug testing and restraining the three violated several amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
“Mr. Hale should not have suffered an amputation,” Rothert said. “Mr. and Mrs. Rogers should not have been imprisoned and humiliated. Missourians deserve fair treatment, no matter who they are or where they live.”
The suit names Gaston along with unidentified employees of the Texas County Sheriff’s Department allegedly involved in the incident. The incident occurred during the Sigman administration.