$1.8M settlement reached in Todd County inmate death

December 06, 2018 07:21 PM

Todd County agreed Wednesday to pay $1.8 million to the family of a mentally ill man who killed himself in the county jail in June 2017. A civil rights lawsuit documented how jailers repeatedly ignored signs that Brett Huber, Jr., was suicidal, and that guards went so far as to falsify jail logs to make it look like they checked on the 25-year-old at the same time he hanged himself in his cell.

Huber's father, Brett Huber, Sr., spoke for the first time about what happened Thursday. 

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"Brett needed help. Brett knew that he needed help," Huber said.

He described his son as someone who struggled with addiction and mental health issues before he was arrested for burglary in March 2017.

The lawsuit accused Todd County of violating the rights of Brett Huber, Jr., and demonstrating "deliberate indifference" for his life. In the civil complaint, lawyers say jail staff observed an earlier suicide attempt by Huber and other bizarre behavior but never sought to have him evaluated by a mental health professional.

A month before Huber's death, an outside nurse practitioner wrote that he would "likely benefit from a full psychiatric evaluation," but his family says that never happened.

"There were at least eight or nine off-ramps that screamed 'this is a young man having serious mental issues,'" said Brett Huber, Sr., who says he repeatedly brought his concerns to the jail administrator.

RELATED: Death of inmate the focus of federal wrongful death suit against Stearns County

"I went to visit my son once and he's in a vest. Obviously, I wasn't the only one that felt like he could be a danger to himself," he said.

The family of Brett Huber, Jr., says jail staff also missed an opportunity to save his life as he was preparing to hang himself. The lawsuit reveals that surveillance cameras recorded him spending several minutes fashioning a noose out of bedsheets inside his cell, but no staff attempted to stop him.

Jailers are also accused of logging a check of Huber's cell at the same time he hanged himself – something the lawsuit called a "complete fabrication."

"He was placed in a cell with video surveillance for a reason. So, if you're surveilling that cell and you see anything that indicates this – they had an absolute duty, both as public servants and I would hope as human beings, to intervene," Brett Huber, Sr., said.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections has found the Todd County jail "chronically understaffed" in the past and repeatedly cited it for following the rules to keep inmates safe.

A call to Todd County Sheriff Don Asmus to ask what changes have been made since Huber's death was not immediately returned.

KSTP found at least two other pending federal lawsuits with similar allegations involving the deaths of inmates at jails in Sherburne and Waseca Counties. 

"Those who are put in a position of authority where they're expected to be protective of that human life need to take that responsibility seriously and follow through with it and if they can't, they ought to find something else to do," said  Brett Huber Sr.
 

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