By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in News
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 10:20 am
|Michael Safiotti -- in jail for marijuana -- died after jail workers served him oatmeal containing dairy products, then refused to help him when he had an allergic reaction|
Michael Saffioti, 22, who, upon his mother's advice, had turned himself in to the Lynnwood Police Department after missing a court date, was dead after just one night in the Snohomish County Jail in Washington state, reports Molly Shen of KATU.com. The county could face a lawsuit for ignoring Saffioti's food allergy.
The young man knew dairy products could kill him; he read labels and carried medication, and suffered severe reactions from just being near dairy protein. His anxiety over the allergy was so severe, in fact, it left him needing medication.
"Ultimately, he found and thought he was better functioning using marijuana," said his mother, Rose Saffioti, who is a nurse.
But Michael didn't have a doctor's recommendation to use cannabis medicinally, which left him vulnerable to prosecution. His marijuana use led to several encounters with law enforcement. After the most recent incident, he and his mother went to the police station, carrying his medical history, after he had missed a court date.
"I wanted Michael held accountable for his legal issues and I insisted on it," his mother said. "But I didn't want him to die."
Michael started having trouble breathing after eating the oatmeal that was served to him in jail. According to other inmates, he begged for help.
The guards accused him of faking it, and allowed him to die in horrible pain. The autopsy found his allergic reaction to milk products contributed to his death.
"I know there's a period where he knew he was going to die," his mother said. "And he trusted me. Everything was supposed to bet set up, that he'd be taken care of."
"He was scared," she said, reports The Associated Press. "I said, 'You are doing the right thing. They are going to take care of you.' He said, 'I have a bad feeling that they are not going to take me seriously.' "
"You can't get help. You can't call 911," said Anne Bremner, an attorney representing the Saffioti family. "You're at their complete mercy. When the jail's the one that gives you something that's going to kill you -- that they know is going to kill you -- they, at a minimum, have to rescue you. And they didn't."
The Snohomish County Sheriff's Department wouldn't comment on Saffioti's death or the potential lawsuit until its "investigation" is complete.
Rose Saffioti said she will sue the county, but that her first goal is to hold someone criminally responsible. Michael's death is one of six deaths to occur in the same jail since 2010. It's one of at least two that are resulting in wrongful-death claims against the county.
She and attorney Bremner are encouraging the Snohomish County prosecutor's office to file involuntary manslaughter charges against jail workers whom they believe should have helped prevent Michael's death.