County supervisors release reports criticizing Sheriff Smith’s operation of jail

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BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors released two damning reports Friday about Sheriff Laurie Smith’s handling of a jail inmate who suffered brain damage during a mental health crisis in custody.

“An abject failure” is how police auditor Michael Gennaco described it, followed by “irregular procedures and incomplete explanations” from the sheriff’s office that compounded the initial concerns.

An internal affairs investigation of negligence and poor judgment concluded without any conclusions being reached, Gennaco said.

Already, the county has settled a lawsuit for $10 million with the family of Andrew Hogan, who bashed his head into the side of a jail van as he was being transported to psychiatric care.

Hogan will require full-time care for the rest of his life, his family says.

When the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agreed to the settlement on Feb. 10, 2020, county Counsel James Williams wrote a report on the incident, which was kept private until the board voted to release it on Aug. 17.

The names of the deputies and jail supervisors involved were redacted.

Sheriff stonewalls investigator

The narrative was reviewed by Gennaco, who came out hard against jail supervisors handling the incident, and asked questions that haven’t been answered because he said the sheriff’s office is stonewalling him.

According to the reports, Hogan, 27, had been in custody at the county’s Elmwood jail in Milpitas for eight days on a misdemeanor assault charge. He told officers he was hearing voices in his head and that he needed help.

A sergeant reported that Hogan was mumbling incomplete sentences sentences, sweating profusely and displaying “bizarre” behavior.

After a clinician interviewed Hogan, deputies decided to take him to the main jail to see a doctor. They coaxed him into the cage in the back of the van, Gennaco said.

The van did not have a seatbelt or any other restraints. Hogan’s hands and feet were shackled.

Two deputies drove Hogan toward the jail, and on the way, he started hitting his forehead on the side of the van. The deputies sped up and turned on the van’s lights and sirens.

Hogan hit his head at least 50 times, Williams said.

At the jail, an extreme amount of blood dripped from the top of Hogan’s head over his face. Blood was spattered throughout the van, and Hogan had defecated. A nurse told a supervisor to call an ambulance, Gennaco said.

Left alone after head injury

Despite the major injury, an unnamed supervisor opened the van door for eight seconds, closed it and left Hogan alone.

Hogan screamed for help and said that he was dying and needed water. He yelled with less and less vigor and eventually lapsed into unconsciousness, according to Gennaco’s report.

Audio from jail cameras recorded the supervisor saying that, in the meantime before medics arrived, Hogan could “do all the damage he wants,” Gennaco said.

The San Jose Fire Department arrived along with another sheriff’s office supervisor who isn’t named in the report.

The paramedics wanted to open the van door, but the second supervisor told them not to for a few minutes. The supervisor’s report said Hogan was breathing but not responding verbally, and the supervisor feared it was a trick.
After waiting for a few minutes, medics moved Hogan from the van to an ambulance and took him to the hospital.

Four damage experts estimated Hogan’s future medical costs between $6.7 million and $14 million, and his pain and suffering between $3 million and $5 million.

The sheriff’s office has declined to provide information about any further investigation into the incident or disciplinary action taken in response, Genacco said.

Questions 

Genacco said his review left him with many questions, such as:

• Why was Hogan transported in a caged van?

• Why did deputies continue to the main jail after Hogan began harming himself?

• And why did the supervisor delay medical care?

“Underlying the deeply unfortunate outcome of this case is the baseline question of whether Mr. Hogan should have even been in custody at the time of the incident, given the relatively minor nature of the charged offense and the precarious status of his mental health,” Genacco said. “While that issue is deserving of further attention as part of the larger discussion of the county’s justice system, the reality is that mentally ill individuals who do happen to be in custody incur an obligation on the sheriff’s office to keep them safe from themselves.”

Sheriff under fire

The report is the latest in a series of charges against Sheriff Smith from the Board of Supervisors, led by Supervisor Joe Simitian. The board has referred her practices to the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury, the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice.

She is under fire for two other cases of injuries involving mentally ill inmates, and her office is alleged to have committed campaign finance violations and a gun permits-for-money bribery scheme. Supervisors unanimously voted “no confidence” against Smith last month, but they are unable to remove her because she is an elected official. She has not announced if she will run again next year.

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