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Last Legacy Of Sheriff Tommy Thomas: A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas is leaving office in a few weeks, thanks to the voters, but his legacy will live on, thanks to a lawsuit filed over a jailhouse death.

Daniel Goldberg recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the department in state district court on behalf of the parents of Alfred Adams, who they claim was beaten to death by county jailors two years ago.

"The lawsuit is being filed now," Goldberg told Hair Balls, "because the Harris County Sheriff's Department, under the [Thomas] administration, made no efforts to investigate this abuse of power, apologize to Mr. Adams' still grieving parents and family, or change the treatment of non-violent inmates. The family contacted my office out of desperation with a process that has resulted in nothing more than their son's death."

Police arrested Adams in November 2006 for driving with an expired license, says Goldberg, and then brought him to the Harris County jail.

Upon arrival, Adams complained of feeling ill, was treated, and then sent back to the processing cell. Goldberg says that when the guards told Adams to move to another cell, Adams was too sick to respond quickly, so the officers began to beat Adams unconscious. Adams was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A Sheriff's spokesman initially told reporters that Adams died from cocaine and that the bruises on his body occurred when he had a seizure and officers had to restrain him.

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Goldberg concedes that Adams' autopsy report does say cocaine was the cause of death, but that "the report also listed in detail his extensive injuries ... [and] the injuries were sufficient to be an independent cause of death, heighten the possibility of death of any cocaine digestion, or at least cloud the exact reason of death. Either way, cocaine consumption should never warrant a physical assault ...."

Goldberg says he's found several witnesses willing to testify on Adams' behalf as to the officers' behavior.

"It is unimaginable that a young man, checked in for a non-violent offense, should be assaulted by several well-armed guards for his inability to comply with the guards' orders," Goldberg says. "It is our hope that the new Sheriff recognizes the past administration's problems and is sincere in his desire to bring about a positive new direction for the department and the County, as he was elected to do. Only time will tell."

-- Chris Vogel

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