For-profit jail, family settle Arkansas inmate death lawsuit

TEXARKANA, Texas (AP) — Lawyers reached an undisclosed settlement Tuesday in a federal lawsuit in which the family of an Arkansas man alleged employees of a for-profit jail left the man to die in his cell as his health deteriorated.

Representatives for Michael Sabbie’s family and LaSalle Corrections, which runs the Bi-State Justice Center in Texarkana, Texas, said they would not comment on the terms of the settlement stemming from Sabbie’s 2015 death, according to the Texarkana Gazette .

The lawsuit also included Bowie County, Texas, and the city of Texarkana, Arkansas, because the city and jail straddle state lines.

It alleged the jail and its employees deprived Sabbie of medications and treatment even though he told staff he suffered from heart disease, asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes and other medical conditions.

Sabbie was found dead in his cell three days after he was arrested on July 19 following a verbal dispute with his wife. On July 20, the lawsuit alleged, Sabbie told staff he had trouble breathing. He collapsed the following morning before a court appearance. According to the lawsuit, an officer issued a disciplinary infraction in which he accused Sabbie of “creating a disturbance” by faking illness.

Jail video from later that day shows Sabbie having difficulty standing and breathing after an altercation in which guards used pepper spray on him. In the video, Sabbie can be heard saying at least 19 times that he couldn’t breathe.

Sabbie was handcuffed and briefly taken to a nurse, then the shower, where he collapsed. He was returned to his cell and found dead the next morning.

The lawsuit alleged that staff never checked Sabbie’s blood pressure or blood sugar levels and didn’t give him any of his medications.

In 2017, a Miller County judge approved a $200,000 settlement against LaSalle Corrections in the case of a diabetic woman who died in the same jail. Court records indicated 20-year-old Morgan Angerbauer died of diabetic ketoacidosis after a former nurse refused to treat her. The nurse, Brittany Johnson, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor negligent homicide.