Sheriff Knezovich has since contacted the author, and threatened legal action for posting incorrect information. In his email to RTC, the Sheriff kindly provided the amounts for the legal and expert fees, not available to KR at the time of the publication of the original article. Here is the breakdown of the costs of the lawsuit:
Federal Lawsuit Settlement: $50,000 Public Records Request (PRR) Settlement: $28,000 Legal Fees: $18,000 Expert Fees: $19,000
Therefore, the actual cost to Spokane County taxpayers was only $115,000, not $150,000 as our initial report stated. We apologize to the readers and Mr. Knezovich for the mistake.
Danny Lee was sentenced to the Spokane County Jail for an assault involving shooting paintballs at bystanders. At that time, the jail was still under the command of Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. Lee has mental health issues and takes prescribed mental health medications. At the time of Lee’s sentencing, the judge ordered the jail to provide these medications. The Lee family was led to believed Lee’s medications could be brought to the jail when he surrendered to do his time. This was until the jail could provide them from its own supplier. There were several requirements including confirmation from the treating physician and the medications were delivered in sealed containers from Lee’s pharmacy. The jail refused to accept Lee’s medications and to comply with the judge’s order.
Lee eventually received his medications after ten days following exhaustive efforts by his family. This included a meeting by Danny Lee’s parents, Rob Lee, and Angie Lee, with Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and several senior staff members in a Sheriff’s Office conference room. Rob Lee told RTC that the Sheriff was very combative, intimidating and bullying in this meeting to the point that his wife, Angie, left the room in tears.
Rob Lee said he only wanted to get his son’s medications. Sheriff Kenzovich’s demeanor and behavior were very unprofessional according to Rob Lee. Rob Lee said if the Sheriff had been the least bit cooperative, understanding and gave some assurance that Danny would get his medications, no lawsuit would have been filed. Rob Lee said the money was never the issue. The family wanted the jail to make changes to ensure this didn’t happen again.
Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs Sgt. Rich Geer during a later interview apologized on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office to Rob Lee and his wife that the jail had not followed its own medication policy. See video of this interview:
Rob Lee at the time filed a PRR (public records request) for the jail’s medication policy and was given a different policy that didn’t allow for inmate supplied medications. This was the basis for the filing a separate state lawsuit against the County for withholding the original policy that Sgt. Geer had referred to. This lawsuit was settled in favor of Rob Lee for $28,000. As reported by the S-R:
Danny Lee subsequently filed a federal civil rights lawsuit. Lee was represented by Jeffry Finer of the Center for Justice (Co-counsel in the Otto Zehm federal lawsuit). The lawsuit named as defendants Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, Jail Commander John McGrath, Lt. Dan Veloski, Deputy John Propp and Geiger nurse Michelle Erdem. The facts and circumstances of the lawsuit were previously reported by the Inlander in these articles:
A mediation hearing was held by a federal judge in the Federal District Court in Yakama last Thursday. The parties agreed to a settlement of $50,000 with the understanding that changes were and will be made in jail policy, procedure, staffing, and training. RTC does not have exact figures, but the County’s costs and attorney fees probably will approach $100K.
There are several other federal civil rights lawsuits pending for similar issues after the Lee case involving alleged denial or delay in providing inmate medications. These plaintiffs are also being represented by the Center for Justice. Settlements in these lawsuits could be even higher in that the County had knowledge that these incidents were not isolated events and were still occurring.