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Lawsuit filed against county, sheriff's department

The family of a DeKalb woman who killed herself in the DeKalb County Jail earlier this month has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county and the sheriff's department.

The family of Brandi L. Brantley is seeking unspecified damages from the county. The lawsuit alleges that the county, as well as the sheriff's department, did not do their required duty of preserving the life of an inmate in their custody. The lawsuit was filed April 9 at the DeKalb County Courthouse by David Brantley, Brandi Brantley's father.

Efforts to reach the attorneys for the Brantley family, as well as members of the Brantley family, were unsuccessful Thursday.

Brandi Brantley, 19, apparently hanged herself April 3 while being held in a visitation room at the DeKalb County Jail while awaiting transfer to a drug rehabilitation facility.

The lawsuit alleges that officers left Brantley alone with equipment they knew could be used to inflict harm, that deputies failed to take adequate measures to protect Brantley from herself and that they failed to reasonably monitor her even though they knew she was under the influence of drugs or other illegal substances.

The lawsuit also accuses the county of disregarding Brantley's need for immediate medical care, of failing to take reasonable action to summon medical care and of acting with deliberate indifference for the health and preservation of life.

DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott referred phone calls for comment to DeKalb County State's Attorney Ron Matekaitis, who said it is not unusual to see a lawsuit filed under the circumstances.

"We are studying the complaint itself," Matekaitis said. "Beyond that, I have no immediate comment on the contents of the suit itself."

During a court hearing Thursday, it was ordered that the sheriff's department has until April 24 to give the original surveillance tape to the DeKalb County Circuit Clerk's office so it can be sealed until further court order, according to court documents. The sheriff's office also was ordered to provide an affidavit of the chain of custody for that tape from the date of its recording.

That request is a "standard course of action" in this type of lawsuit, Matekaitis said, in order to assure that evidence is maintained in its original format.

On April 9, Klein ordered that all evidence the county has – including videotapes from the room she was being held in and any other records, correspondences or telephone calls that involve her – be preserved in their original form.

Brantley, a 2008 graduate of DeKalb High School, had been admitted to the county's drug court program April 3 and had been alone in the jail's visitation room since about 11:30 a.m. Deputies said she did not show signs of suicidal behavior, and she was checked on at least once in the hour before she was found.

She was placed in the visitation room because the jail's holding cells were full. The visitation room has four partitions, each with a stool, which is bolted to the floor, and a phone, affixed to the partition, police said. The room also has a video camera.

Brantley was found unresponsive about 2:45 p.m. and was pronounced dead a short time later at Kishwaukee Community Hospital. DeKalb County Coroner Dennis Miller ruled that Brantley strangled on a metal telephone cord, similar to those on pay phones.

An internal investigation into the death is ongoing. The jail, as required, notified the Department of Jail Standards within the Illinois Department of Corrections within 72 hours of the death, Scott has said.

The last death in the county jail was May 23, 1995, when inmate Robert R. Diaz hanged himself, Scott said. The county was found by the state to be in compliance with jail standards then.

The case will next be in court at 9:30 a.m. April 30 at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore.

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