Lawsuits dropped in death of Nevada County Jail inmate | TheUnion.com

Lawsuits dropped in death of Nevada County Jail inmate

A judge has dismissed two lawsuits against Nevada County that alleged jail officials failed to ensure the safety of an inmate who died while incarcerated, court records show.

A judge last month dismissed the suits filed by two children of Joshua Hightower, who died May 27, 2016, ruling that they failed to meet a deadline to tweak their complaint against the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility.

"The plaintiffs were given an opportunity to amend their complaints to state a cause of action and they failed to amend their complaint," said Amanda Uhrhammer, assistant county counsel.

According to Uhrhammer, county officials challenged the lawsuits, filed in May, arguing they didn't meet a legal threshold and weren't sufficient. The judge then granted the county's motion to dismiss when an Oct. 20 deadline to amend the complaints was missed.

The lawsuits claimed that sheriff's officials failed to protect Hightower by allowing drugs to enter the jail. They also failed to properly supervise Hightower or conduct routine checks. Additionally, they didn't provide medical assistance when they found him face down and in apparent distress, the suits claimed.

"We investigated this thoroughly and found there was no wrongdoing by my staff," Sheriff Keith Royal said.

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Royal said officials realize inmates smuggle drugs into jail. That led them a month ago to buy a body scanner, similar to those used at airports. The $125,000 machine can reveal items concealed in people's clothes or inside their bodies.

Revenue gained from housing federal inmates provided funds for the machine, the sheriff said.

Conner Milkey, 25, faces an involuntary manslaughter charge in connection with Hightower's death. Charged in August, he remained Tuesday in the Nevada County Jail under $65,000 in bond.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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