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Jail staffers could face charges in dehydration death of inmate

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Seven staffers from a Milwaukee County jail run by outspoken sheriff David Clarke could face criminal charges in the dehydration death of an inmate who was left without water for seven days.

A jury on Monday determined that they had found probable cause for “abuse of a resident of a penal facility” in the death of the 38-year-old inmate and recommended criminal charges.

Clarke, who is one of President Trump’s most vocal supporters, regularly appears on cable news where he advocates for strict law enforcement policies.

The jury’s recommendation came after a six-day inquest that included testimony from jail staff and evidence from county prosecutors.

The inmate, Terrill Thomas, suffered from bipolar disorder and was denied water as a form of punishment. He died in his cell last year.

The Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel reported that an inmate in the cell across from Thomas pleaded with guards to turn the water back on.

“I could tell he was getting weaker,” Marcus Berry told the paper. “One day he just lay down, dehydrated and hungry.”

On Monday, the six-person jury returned its recommendation just a few hours after morning testimony that the sheriff’s office continued using water deprivation as a form of punishment even after Thomas’ death.

“This isn’t the first time this happened. This is a pattern,” Assistant District Attorney Kurt Bentley said.

Sheriff Clarke was not targeted and has declined to comment on Thomas’ death but has alluded to the man’s criminal record in the past.

“Is this the guy who was in custody for shooting up the Potawatomi Casino causing one man to be hit by gunfire while in possession of a firearm by a career convicted felon?” Clarke said in a statement last month.

“The media never reports that in stories about him. If that is him, then at least I know who you are talking about.”

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said he had no timeline to decide, and that he could charge more people — or fewer.


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