Man left in jail ‘with his colon hanging out’ for four days - lawsuit

Reuters / Lucy Nicholson
An Arkansas man is suing officials in Saline County after he said he was refused medical care while in their custody for four days, despite having a prolapsed colon “literally hanging outside of his body,” according to court documents.

Thesuit, filed last week in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, alleges that law enforcement officials in Saline knowingly and purposely violated the constitutional and civil rights of former detention center detainee Steven David Cook.

Cook was arrested on June 29, 2012, according to the lawsuit, and that same day experienced a prolapsed colon.

“Approximately a foot of Cook's colon had inverted and was protruding out of his rectum,” the suit alleges, causing extreme physical pain and emotional distress

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Because Cook was refused medical care, his attorneys claim, he was left “languishing in jail, lying in feces and blood in a dirty cell, exposed to germs and bacteria of all sorts, with his colon hanging out” until four days later on July 2.

Archived news reports suggest he was arrested on counts of theft and trespassing.

Cook alerted his jailers of the condition the same day he was taken into custody, according to the suit, and he showed off his condition to no fewer than four detention center officials, including sheriff’s deputies and a physician.

Officials agreed on site to send Cook to a hospital, according to his account, but their plans were sidelined when Andy Gill, the assistant prosecutor attorney for Saline County, allegedly called the jail and claimed the inmate “could push his rectum inside out ‘at will.’”

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“Plaintiff does not know for certain how Gill obtained the information underlying his outlandish allegations,” the complaint reads in part. “Certainly, Gill had no personal knowledge of Cook's body, specifically his colon and/or rectum. In any event, Gill's assertions are and were patently false. Upon information and belief, a healthy colon cannot simply become inverted and protrude outside the human body unless there is some sort of serious medical trauma taking place. More importantly, the allegation that Cook could ‘at will’ cause his colon to prolapse is patently false.”

Courthouse News Service reports that Bruce Pennington, the sheriff of Saline County at the time of the alleged ordeal, is facing felony abuse of trust and theft of property charges along with two other former employees of the Sheriff’s Office. Law enforcement officials did not return Courthouse News’ request for comment.

In the lawsuit, filed April 21, attorneys for Cook say the mistreatment suffered by their client constituted deliberate indifference to his medical needs and thus violated the protections granted to him by the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth amendments to the US Constitution. He’s seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the violations, cruel and unusual punishment, permanent injury and emotional pain and suffering.