MINEOLA, Long Island - A 58-year-old Long Island woman with a history of mental illness died in jail following her arrest over a car accident that killed two people, and her attorney is blaming the jail's health care provider.
Elizabeth Stenson was awaiting trial for the fatal May crash when she was placed in the Nassau County Jail, and eight days after entering the facility, she was dead.
"There was no alcohol or drugs involved, and we may have had a perfectly innocent explanation for what took place given her medical history," attorney William Kephart said. "But we never got that day. The jail and the medical provider is not the judge, jury and the sentencer."
On the day Stenson entered custody, Kephart filed a court document alerting the jail that she required medical attention for high blood pressure. He said that five days went by without her receiving her medication, prompting him to file another request for medical attention. Three days later, she died of a heart attack. It is the 13th death at the jail since 2011, when Nassau County brought in Florida-based Armor Medical Services to care for sick inmates.
"They've shown time and time again to be negligent, even reckless, in taking care of people's basic medical needs," Kephart said.
Armor declined to talk about specifics, citing HIPAA privacy laws. But in a statement, they said they "strongly disagree with all allegations."
Joseph Hores recently spent six months in Nassau County Jail, and he claims he too was denied proper medical care by Armor staff even though he has a history of heart problems.
"I wasn't getting the right medical attention," he said. "They wrote me up. They claimed I was faking it."
Hores said he was having chest pains and has had heart attacks in the past, and officials at the jail only offered him Bengay.
"He told me to put it on my chest," he said. "He ordered BenGay for me."
Things got so bad at the county jail that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stepped in and pressured the county to hire an independent monitor to check in on Armor and file periodic reports. Eyewitness News made repeated attempts to get copies of these reports, even filing a Freedom of Information request, but the county denied us copies. So we confronted Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano to ask what they were hiding.
"Well I think every death is a tragic," he said. "Sure, I think everything is public document. I don't see why anything isn't public document."
Hours after Mangano agreed to give us the monitor's reports, the county's legal counsel told us they will not release the reports because of attorney-client privilege. Eyewitness News has filed an official appeal.
The county plans to end its contract with Armor on September 1, handing inmate health care over to Nassau University Medical Center.