Army veteran Kayvan Sabeghi, 33, was badly injured, arrested and sent to jail during an Occupy Oakland protest in November 2011. He is now suing Oakland for being denied medical treatment, as he barely survived the experience.
The former US Army Ranger was on his way home after a nonviolent Occupy Oakland protest. Because he refused to change direction, a line of police in riot gear approached him and one officer proceeded to beat Sabeghi with a nightstick, as can be seen in the video above. He simply refused to move. There was no aggression on Sabeghi's part, he just refused to move as he was so close to his home.
At the time, Esther Goodstal, who co-owns a brewery with Sabeghi, told reporters, "Literally, you (could) see his apartment," she said. "The police for some reason ... said, `No, you cannot pass.'"
After being beaten, he was arrested on suspicion of remaining at the scene of a riot.
Due to being severely beaten, Sabeghi suffered a lacerated spleen, and on being taken to jail, was denied immediate treatment.
Now the Californian prison is facing a lawsuit for neglect of the injured man. While incarcerated at the Glenn Dyer Jail, the prison staff refused to help him while he lay on the floor vomiting from his injuries, unable to move and begging for help. Sabeghi eventually went unconscious in his jail cell.
According to the lawsuit, the sheriff's deputies accused Sabeghi of being drunk and having a heroin withdrawal. Apparently one prison employee checked Sabeghi's blood pressure and determined he was an alcoholic and a diabetic. In reality he was suffering from the effects of a ruptured spleen from the brutal beating by police.
The lawsuit states, “Later, another County deputy looked into the cell and observed Mr. Sabeghi lying on the floor throwing up. This deputy taunted Sabeghi by stating, ‘Don’t do heroin. He then pointed Mr. Sabeghi out to the other inmate and stated, ‘see this is why you don’t do heroin.’”
Sabeghi's friends posted bail a day after this, and when the deputies realized that he did not have the strength to leave his cell, they finally called an ambulance for him. Sabeghi was taken to a nearby hospital and remained in intensive care for his lacerated spleen and internal bleeding for five days.
A spokesman for the sheriff's office, Sgt JD Nelson, denied any mistreatment and insisted video footage would show officers promptly assisting Sabeghi and arranging an examination. "As his condition worsened, we got an ambulance there," Nelson said.
However, anti-war protester, Dan Siegel, said, "Contrary to what the sheriff department's spokesperson said, it was not the case that they responded with any urgency. They only took it seriously when his friends bailed him out and he was unable to leave."
"He came close to dying. His doctors said so. He had a ruptured spleen and he was bleeding internally, which is why he got progressively weaker," he added.
The lawsuit, which was filed by Siegel against the prison, claims that the officers “acted with deliberate indifference to a serious medical need,” thereby inflicting further pain and harm to an already-injured man and bringing him close to death.
The lawsuit is seeking upwards of $1 million in damages to pay for Sabeghi’s medical care as well as to compensate for the physical and emotional pain endured by him from and during the incident.
Siegel also hopes that this lawsuit will also shed light on the practices of the jail staff and ultimately improve conditions there. He told the Guardian, “The greater concern that [Sabeghi] has is that there be some changes at the jail.”
“It’s a big problem that the county has privatized health services in a public jail and that the company that’s doing it is more concerned about making money than providing quality care,” he added.
Basically, the lawsuit claims that during his stay in prison, Sabeghi was falsely diagnosed as being alcoholic when his condition was, in fact, very serious. A private company, Corizon, is supposed to take care of prisoners' health, but medical staff allegedly refused to examine his injuries. It further claims that Sabeghi was denied treatment and mocked by prison guards for 18 hours. One of them even video taped the injured man while he was vomiting and writhing in pain.
"There are a lot of people taken to jail who have substantial medical problems," said Siegel. "There are a lot of people with drug and alcohol problems and they need to be adequately cared for … When you have guards who ridicule people with health problems, that's a setup for failure. Maybe there are some who exaggerate their symptoms but I think they should all be checked out and if someone continues to complain, they should be given the benefit of the doubt. At least get a doctor."