Ohio judge: 'I will not send people to jail' after sixth inmate dies in four months

Cleveland Municipal Judge Michael Nelson said he won't send people to the Cuyahoga County Jail because he believes it is no longer safe

By Adam Ferrise
Advance Ohio Media

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cleveland judge said on Tuesday that he will stop sending people charged with crimes to sit in the Cuyahoga County Jail -- unless they're accused of committing the worst crimes -- because he believes the jail is no longer safe after a sixth inmate died in four months. 

Cleveland Municipal Judge Michael Nelson contacted cleveland.com Tuesday and said that the string of jail deaths disturbed him and he's no longer comfortable setting bonds for people charged with crimes unless they're charged with violent crimes.

He said he will set personal bonds, meaning people who walk into his courtroom will be allowed to leave without posting bonds. He said he's going to reach out to the court's administrative judge, Michelle Earley, and try and set up a meeting with jail officials to figure out why so many inmates are dying.

"The first thing I did this morning when I saw [the cleveland.com] story is look to see if it was someone I sent to jail," Nelson said. "I'm giving personal bonds to everyone from now on unless they're the worst of the worst until things get figured out at the jail."

Earley later said in an emailed statement that she has set up a meeting with jail officials. 

"Both the warden of the county jail and the Chief of Public Safety for Cuyahoga County have agreed to meet with me so that the Court can get a better understanding of what is going on with the jail, what has happened in these situations and what plans the jail has/will implement to prevent further inmate deaths in the facility," Earley's statement said. 

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner on Wednesday identified the inmate who died. Allan Martin Gomez, 44, died four days after being booked into the county jail.

He was arrested Friday on a warrant issued months ago. He was charged with fifth-degree felony cocaine possession, meaning Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority police accused him of possessing less than five grams of the drug.

Gomez was taken to MetroHealth sometime after his arraignment in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. Judge Kathleen Ann Sutula set his bond at $1,500, meaning he only needed to post $150 to be released.

Cuyahoga County officials have refused to release information regarding Gomez's death. County spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan would not say when Gomez was taken to the hospital or the circumstances surrounding the death.

Gomez's death marks the sixth county inmate to die while being incarcerated since June 22. Two inmates hanged themselves and two had drugs in their system when they died. The medical examiner has not yet determined the cause of deaths for a man who died in the county-run Euclid jail and Gomez.

No more than two Cuyahoga County Jail inmates have died in one year in the last decade, according to medical examiner records.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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