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Report: DeKalb County Jail staff did not violate procedures in death

Staff at the DeKalb County Jail did not violate any protocols or regulation, according to an internal review ordered in the aftermath of an inmate’s suicide earlier this month.

But though the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office reports were turned over to the county’s state’s attorney’s office and the Illinois Department of Corrections, the county is not yet releasing the department’s findings to the public or to the inmate’s family because of a pending lawsuit. Among the evidence is video footage that could have captured the incident.

“It’s not an appropriate thing to do,” Sheriff Roger Scott said. “Things could be taken out of context, or it could become an issue elsewhere.”

Brandi L. Brantley, 19, apparently strangled herself April 3 while being held in a visitation room at the DeKalb County Jail while awaiting transfer to a drug rehabilitation facility. She was found about 2:45 p.m. and pronounced dead a short time later at Kishwaukee Community Hospital. DeKalb County Coroner Dennis Miller ruled that Brantley strangled herself on a metal telephone cord, similar to those on pay phones.

Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit April 9 and is seeking unspecified damages from the county. 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.

There will be a “full airing” of the reports as the civil case proceeds through the judicial process, DeKalb County State’s Attorney Ron Matekaitis said.

Releasing the report could interfere with the litigation because potential jurors could read or hear details about the case in media reports and it could taint their view, Matekaitis said.

Michael Sweeney, one of the lawyers for the Brantley family, said the lawsuit “is absolutely no excuse” for not providing the victim’s family with closure as to what happened to their daughter. He believes that the reports are a matter of public record, but at the very least could be privately shared with the family.

“They can’t begin to recover until this information is released,” Sweeney said, adding he has not seen the internal reports or any other evidence that the county has.

The dynamics of how information is exchanged changed as soon as the lawsuit was filed, Matekaitis said. All legal matters go through a formal process, called discovery, where information is exchanged between the opposing parties, he said. A schedule for that exchange is set by the court.

“He’s wanting information prior to the timeline being established,” Matekaitis added. “That information will all be provided to him, but it won’t be piecemeal.”

But Sweeney said the county could have provided the Brantley family with the information before the lawsuit was filed. The family was told by deputies that they would be contacted on April 6 and would be able to see the videotape. That didn’t happen, he said, adding that phone calls placed to the sheriff’s department by the family were not returned.

“We are here because they were denied information. That’s when they contacted lawyers,” Sweeney said.

The video system at the jail is computerized, Scott said, so it cannot be tampered with. It takes several days to preserve the original video, he said. The department also had every person who came in contact with Brantley write a report as well.

“It’s just as important for us to have it preserved appropriately,” Scott said. “We want the whole story to be out in the appropriate fashion.”

A specific deputy was designated the day of Brandi’s death to be the liaison with the Brantley family, Scott said, and the family has not contacted the sheriff’s department since that day. The family also was talking about filing a lawsuit the night of Brandi’s death, Scott added.

The deputy who spoke with the Brantleys on April 3 told them they would be able to see the videotape at the appropriate time but did not give a specific time frame, Scott said. That videotape was turned over to the county’s circuit clerk on April 16 and sealed by a judge, Scott added.

The jail, as required, notified the Illinois Department of Correction’s Jail and Detention Standards Unit within 72 hours of the death and has since sent its findings to that department.

Illinois DOC spokesman Derek Schnapp said the department has received the reports and is reviewing them. He said there is no timeline for when the department will complete its review, noting investigators will take as much time as they deem necessary. Once their review is complete, it will be sent back to the county sheriff’s department, Schnapp said.

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

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