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Jail death case settles

Jail death case settles

Company asks judge to keep details secret

SCHENECTADY -- The estate of a man who took his own life in the Schenectady County Jail in 2014 has reached a settlement with the jail's medical provider in a lawsuit filed over the death, records show.


Details of the settlement over the death of 29-year-old Lucky Lee Wilkins Jr., were not available Wednesday, but U.S. District Court records indicate the two sides reached the agreement after lengthy discussions last week.


Whatever the settlement is, Schenectady County Attorney Christopher Gardner indicated it involves no county money. The jail's medical provider, Correctional Medical Care, chose to settle the case, Gardner noted.
The settlement agreement now goes to the presiding judge, Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Stewart, for approval. Stewart will also decide on a request to seal the details of the settlement. 


A different judge rejected a request to seal details in a similar Schenectady County Jail case settlement a year ago.


Wilkins died in county custody on May 28, 2014. Jail employees discovered him with a sheet around his neck, the other end tied to a bar at the top of the cell, according to court documents.


He had been jailed on a felony drug charge for more than two months and was being held on $25,000 bail.


In the original lawsuit, filed in August 2015, his estate contended Wilkins showed signs of severe depression, including suicidal thoughts, during his time in the jail. The estate alleged  Wilkins sought assistance for depression from medical staff at the jail and at Ellis Hospital but was never provided any meaningful care. The estate originally included claims against Ellis, but those were later dropped.


The suit alleged Wilkins received no medical treatment, causing his death.


The attorney for Wilkins' estate, E. Robert Keach, refused to comment on the settlement. An attorney for Correctional Medical Care could not be reached Wednesday.


While no taxpayer money is going to the settlement, Gardner said the county doesn't think there was "any wrongdoing on anyone's part."

The state Commission of Corrections, which looks into all in-custody deaths, issued its final report in the fall that showed fellow inmates told investigators Wilkins had been upset over a breakup with his girlfriend and over his criminal case. 

The public portion of the redacted report, released Wednesday as a result of a Freedom of Information Law request, includes no testimony or indication that Wilkins reached out for help from staff or others. The report recommended the investigation be closed as a suicide.


Correctional Medical Care covers all such lawsuits. Payouts, if any, are fully paid by CMC.


Keach noted in the original lawsuit that there have been previous allegations against Correctional Medical Care in Schenectady County and elsewhere. He also noted a state attorney general's settlement with the company, in alleging a "pattern of difficulties."


Keach also represented the family of Nicole Carmen, who died in Schenectady County custody on April 29, 2013. She died from complications of opiate withdrawal, her suit contended.


Carmen's family won a $425,000 settlement from Correctional Medical Care.


The judge in that case, David N. Hurd, rejected a request from the attorneys to keep that resolution confidential and sealed.


Hurd noted the significance of the allegations in the case and the substantial settlement in ordering the Carmen resolution to be publicly disclosed. He also cited the prior allegations, finding a "strong public interest" that the Carmen settlement should be open.

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