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Old 10-01-2004, 07:52 AM
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Default Article : Officers suspended after inmate suicide in New Jersey

Officers suspended after inmate suicide

2 were to watch Montclair man arrested in carjacking
Tuesday, September 28, 2004 BY NIKITA STEWART
Star-Ledger Staff
An Essex County Jail inmate on suicide watch killed himself and the two corrections officers assigned to observe him have been suspended without pay, county officials said yesterday.

Leon DeVose III, 21, of Montclair, was found dead in his cell about 4:15 p.m. Friday, just days after he was arrested for kidnapping and carjacking another Montclair man, said Scott Faunce, director of county corrections.
According to County Counsel Francis Giantomasi, DeVose killed himself by "using standard materials in his cell," but did not elaborate because the incident is still under investigation. Investigators have not determined whether the death could be characterized as a hanging or as an asphyxiation, he said.

However, DeVose's father said the family received a death certificate stating "death by hanging" and is demanding more answers.

"I'm not going to try to paint him as a saint and martyr who was arrested under innocent circumstances," Leon DeVose said. "But this is not supposed to happen ... We thought he was safe. We thought he was finally safe."

Corrections officers George Herriott and Frank Edgar were assigned to check on DeVose every 15 minutes under a suicide watch, Faunce said.

County officials are investigating the actions of Herriott and Edgar, who were suspended without pay on Friday, Giantomasi said.

Herriott has worked in county corrections for 15 years while Edgar has worked for 17 years, said Teresa Ruiz, a county spokeswoman.

The Policemen's Benevolent Association Local 382, the union that represents corrections officers at the jail, is looking into the incident, said Joseph Amato, union president.

But he said, "Suicide prevention is only part of their duties. Staffing is still the issue here."

Giantomasi said the suicide watch was properly staffed.

Throughout his life, Leon DeVose III, the father of two small children, had emotional problems, his father and mother said.

He suffered from depression and was taking medication, Derletha DeVose said. "The last time I talked to him he was saying he started to hear voices," she said. "He said there was a lot of confusion in his head."

About 12:01 a.m., Sept. 19, DeVose approached a 27-year-old Montclair man who was sitting in his car at the Crescent parking lot off South Fullerton Avenue, according to Montclair police.

DeVose asked for a ride and, after the man refused twice, he pulled out a handgun and told the man to take him where he wanted to go, police said.

For two hours, the motorist took DeVose through Montclair, East Orange and Manhattan. At a Garden State Parkway rest stop, DeVose forced the man to use his ATM to get money.

DeVose was observed by New Jersey Institute of Technology campus police, who chased the car until it crashed at Broad and Bridge streets. He was arrested by Newark police.

He was charged with kidnapping, carjacking, illegal possession of a handgun and threatening to kill, Faunce said.

When DeVose entered the county jail, a medical screening revealed that he was depressed, Faunce said. "He had issues that were being dealt with by the medical department," he said.

DeVose's parents said when their son called to inform them that he was in jail, it was a "sigh of relief."

Derletha DeVose said she thought her son would be forced to get the psychiatric help he needed.

"One of the safest places for a person to be we believed was in jail," said Leon DeVose, who ran unsuccessfully for the Montclair council in May. "We thought he would be safe from the streets."
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Old 10-01-2004, 10:22 AM
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What happened to them checking him every 15 minutes??? If they did that...he would probably still be alive. When Dave hung himself they found him like 10-15 minutes later and brought him back to life!!! It's good to hear that they aren't just getting off without any problems. I hope they keep doing the investigation...and justice is served!!!! I feel so bad for that man and his family! Hugs
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Old 10-02-2004, 06:57 AM
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Its A Shame That, That Man's Life Had To End That Way. It Only Proves My Theory Even More, That The System Is Not Concerned With Any Health Issues, (whether Mental Or Physical) Of Inmates. The Job That They Were Given Was An Easey Task; Simply Check On The Man Every 15 Mins. They Should Be Fired! They Were Given The Responsibility To Watch Over Someones Life, And To Keep Them Safe From Harm. If That Was Too Much For Them To Handle, Then, Obviously They Are Not Qualified For This Type Of Employment And Should Be Dismissed. I Would Never Want To Have That Burden On My Mind For The Rest Of My Life. How Can They Continue To Live With Themselves?
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Old 10-03-2004, 07:02 PM
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Hi. You know I find it ironic that if the roles were reversed and something inmates did resulted in the injury or death of a "guard," ALL the inmates would be punished (though the systematic dismantling of privileges or those few freedoms inmates are allowed). If you follow the DOC's logic, if one guard does something wrong they should all be fired.
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Old 10-03-2004, 08:39 PM
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that's a good point Just LA!! Wait...Just LA...is this La's husband??? If so...welcome to PTO!!! Hugs
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Old 10-03-2004, 09:19 PM
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Thanks, yes it's me, Mr. LA's. I've been home for four days now and I've barely slept. I'll let everyone wonder why.

I'll be mushy for a moment and say thank you all so much for helping her while I was gone. This entire experience - most especially the prison part - has really loosened some screws in my head, but it would be so much harder if I thought LA's was out here on her own. Your support meant a lot to her, so it meant the world to me, too.

P.S. (nice BBQ pics. I look forward to being at the next one.)
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Old 10-04-2004, 01:41 PM
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Welcome Mr. LA's!!!!
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Old 10-24-2005, 07:11 AM
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And we have yet to hear anything from the authorities on the death of our son. However, my other son was in jail on warrants incurred when my deceased son used his name. He was somehow put in the suicide watch area, and one officer came and showed him (because of the unique name he figured he was related) the precise cell where Leon was killed by the officers' malicious negligence.

He explained that he stood on a sink and hanged himself with a rope.

My question is how does a rope get into the cell of ANY inmate cell, let alone a suicide cell.

Last edited by NJREalMan; 10-24-2005 at 07:14 AM..
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Old 10-24-2005, 06:31 PM
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I'm very sorry to hear about this tragedy and how the CO's abused their power in such sadistic ways.
I do hope that you have sought and found good legal counsel concerning your son's death.
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Old 07-21-2011, 11:11 AM
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Unhappy Epilogue

Quote:
Originally Posted by egs View Post
I'm very sorry to hear about this tragedy and how the CO's abused their power in such sadistic ways.
I do hope that you have sought and found good legal counsel concerning your son's death.
Enough time and events have passed to address this with a little more retrospection.

I am Leon De Vose, II, father of Leon De Vose, III, the victim of this murder-by-labor-action.

We had one highly recommended attorney firm, Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley, well known and respected in the community. Just days before the expiration of the statute of limitations, we received a letter from Mr. Hunt informing us that they had entered into a service contract with Essex County, and that continuing our case would be a conflict of residence.

Inasmuch as we already had the attorney-client agreement with them, should they not have entered into any contract with our adversaries?

Was the last minute notification proper?

At any rate we scrambled and found another attorney, Connie Bentley McGhee, one whom we considered to be a friend of the family, and whose children were good friends with both our boys. We found that the requirements to file the lawsuit on behalf of the two children he allegedly left behind (we believe only one is his), were far more complicated than Mr. Hunt gave us the impression in his letter, where he advised us to file pro se. Nevertheless, we got all these things done, and the case was underway.

To make a long story short, we deposited around $15,000 with Ms. McGhee. Out of this we can show a few letters, copies of the autopsy and daily medical and psychology reports, a defendants' deposition, and that is it. It was filed as both a Federal and State case.

After all this, shortly after the deposition, Ms. McGhee called us in to tell us that she had missed a response deadline and the defendants' sought and were granted a dismissal. It was a CYA (cover your a**) meeting, as she had with her an elderly attorney who agreed that it would be an unwise expenditure of time, talent and treasure to seek reinstatement of the case.

Never expecting much more than some degree of palliative compensation for his two (see above) children, and siblings and us, we agreed to close the case. Even if we were to win a substantial reward, Leon would no longer be with us. The most it would give us is perhaps a more comfortable ride to the cemetery to remember the dash between the dates.

We have since filed a complaint with the local Office of Attorney Ethics. Ms. McGhee has yet to provide us with an accounting of and refund of any remaining escrow money. We have also since learned that other attorneys are aware of her problems with other folks' money. We have also made mention of the "conflict" that prompted Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley to dismiss our agreement in favor of a new client - our adversaries.

We would like to close this thing once and for all and allow the healing to continue. Unfortunately, other parties keep demanding tacitly and implicitly that we keep it open in some way or another.

On another note, I now understand what happened. The officers were doing on a small scale what state employees throughout New Jersey are doing. Since Governor Christie has undertaken the task from which his predecessors found sophisticated ways to cower courageously, fixing New Jersey's fiscal house, employees limit how much work they will do. Right now, in 100+ degree ambient and heat index temperatures, there is a long line of people outside the Motor Vehicle Commission offices throughout the state. I complained about this, and a supervisor told me that this is due to the replacement of overtime with "comp" time. Employees resent this, and refuse to work past their scheduled tour. Therefore, patrons are first queried as to what transactions they plan to conduct and are only allowed in if their transaction is not a lengthy one. If it is one that takes more time, they are only allowed in a few at a time to make sure the employees are not made to stay past their scheduled hours.

I worked for the Federal government for 14 years. I worked for IRS and US Navy. There was a point where overtime was replaced with "comp" time. There were times of high demand where we were needed either past our scheduled time or on weekends. There was no way I or any of my co-workers could get away with leaving a job undone or taxpayers waiting for service because the clock struck DONE.

Forget about doing this in any private sector customer service position!

Oh well, life goes on, our boy is still gone, and the stupid continue to reproduce.
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Old 05-08-2015, 01:13 PM
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Post Months shy of 11 years, and...

My Bride and I officially filed a complaint with the NJ Attorney Ethics Review Board, about two months after the July 2011 post. Here are the results:
  • The Board received and accepted the complaint in November, 2011
  • Shortly thereafter we met with the attorney, Richard Bernstein, who on behalf of the Board would investigate and present the matter.
  • I received an intimidating phone call in reprisal from CBM (see previous post). She called the post slander and ordered me to remove it. I would have, but we cannot do this here.
  • I received an invoice in an unstamped envelope in our mailbox claiming an outstanding balance of several thousand (I cannot recall whether it was over $15,000 or over over $20,000)
  • Mr. Bernstein (I wish I could afford to retain him) did an exhaustive investigation, and found basis for several charges against the initial attorney.
  • He then conducted an exhaustive investigation that produced evidence of violations far beyond those against the initial attorney in both number and severity.
  • Formal complaints were filed on our behalf by the District Board against both attorneys.
  • The initial attorney conceded to most of the charges, and accepted a formal reprimand. Charges against his firm were dismissed. My Bride and I accepted these determinations, as we always thought there was misfeasance, albeit serious, not malfeasance.
  • CBM filed a civil suit claiming slander and libel for the post here. Although it was dismissed in less than six months, it cost us thousands of dollars which the attorney, Howard M. Davis, allowed us to pay in installments. He did an excellent job, and we consider him a dear friend, not only because of this, but because of a relationship that was born of more than a decade of observation of his demonstrated competence and ethics for real estate clients on the other side of transactions from us, and eventually for our clients and personal and business associates.
  • CBM's filing included a statement which under penalty of perjury falsely denied the existence of pending litigation.
  • CBM's defense attorney tried to use my AD/HD and clinical depression diagnoses to disqualify my written and thoroughly documented complaint.
  • Bernstein's evidence, in evidence file boxes, overflowed the jury box. I so wish I could afford to retain him!
  • The ethics panel found CBM in violation of all but, as i recall, one of the just under 20 standards of ethical conduct in the complaint. The Ethics panel recommended formal reprimand, which Mr. Bernstein knew we would not accept, and he himself found less than appropriate for the number and severity of the violations.
  • Upon review by the NJ Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Review Board, the findings of the Ethics Board were upheld, but the recommended penalty was amended to the next more severe action of Censure. There was also an order to repay most of the $12,500 we placed in escrow. There was also a comment in the decision that took note of the fact that the violations did not include theft of funds.
  • We now await formal publication of the decision which starts the clock running for return of our money.
I post this update to encourage members here to not judge the system (as I did) until you first try the system. The Attorney Ethics system is enforced by attorneys, pretty much as real estate license laws are enforced on two levels by real estate licensees - at the local board of Realtors, and at the state licensing authority. This is at least the case in New Jersey, and as a participant on the Realtors committee on professional standards and ethics, I can tell you that we take complaints seriously, and are not afraid to assail violators for misconduct against either each other or the public. From this I have learned that the legal profession is no less, if not far more, diligent about ensuring that the public is protected from unethical practices and practitioners.

There are still loose ends to secure, and questions outstanding, but these will be resolved over time.





It behooves me to thank the volunteers, busy practicing lawyers, who served and deliberated on the cases. I thank our lawyer friends, who shall not be named, for admonishing, no I will say it plainly, collaring us and saying that we had better not let the matter just go. They did not advise or assist in the process, but they did let us know that there is a system of redress. We were allegedly not the first to complain against CBM, but we were the first to persist. Thus, we were the first to prevail against CBM.

I thank Mr. Bernstein for his enthusiastic pursuit for the truth in this matter without compensation, for the good of his industry. In thanking him, I cannot overlook his employing firm, Lowenstein and Sandler, Livingston, NJ, for allowing him the time and resources to effectively pursue this matter. I also thank his family for whatever additional time with them Mr. Bernstein sacrificed. But for the support of both his employer and his family, I do not think he would have been able to perform as heroically as he did. I so wish I could afford to retain him.

Last edited by LDeVose2; 05-08-2015 at 01:55 PM.. Reason: To clarify which post is precendent. Improve readability.
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