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Michigan Addict Who Died Naked in Cell of Withdrawals Raises Anger in Many

  1. Beenthere2Hippie
    Friends and family of a Michigan man who died naked in a jail cell of drug withdrawal while serving a sentence for a traffic ticket staged a rally on Saturday, as the FBI continued to investigate the incident. Local authorities said deputies had done nothing wrong in the case.

    David Stojcevski, 32, was undergoing drug addiction treatment when Macomb County sheriff’s deputies arrested him in June 2014, for failing to pay a $772 ticket for careless driving. Unable to pay, he was locked up at the county jail for a 30-day sentence. According to a federal lawsuit filed by his brother, Vladimir, problems arose almost immediately. Stojcevski was placed in a jail cell, the suit says, even though a nurse observed that he showed “obvious physical signs of drug abuse” and recommended placing him a drug detox unit.

    Stocjevski told jail officials he took methadone as part of a drug treatment program, along with klonopin and oxycodone for anxiety and pain relief, the lawsuit said. Within 17 days, as he experienced noticeable withdrawal symptoms, Stojcevski’s weight plummeted by 45lbs to 50lbs. In a jailhouse video released by WDIV, a local NBC affiliate, Stocjevski can be seen writhing in pain for hours. The disturbing footage attracted national attention. On Saturday, friends and family said it showed how the criminal justice system can neglect prisoners.

    “I don’t even think he should’ve been put in jail for a driving ticket,” said Brandon Balakier, 31. “I mean, there’s other people who do way worse things that are out the next day.” Stojcevski’s mother, Dafinka, said her son was a gentle soul with a “big heart. He didn’t deserve to die in jail,” she said. A week after he was admitted to jail, the 70-page complaint says, Stojcevski began “hallucinating, talking to people that are not there, and also stated that he died earlier today."

    At that point he was transferred to a mental health unit, where he was monitored by video at all times. During that period, the county failed to provide access to his prescriptions, the lawsuit claims. The following 240 hours of Stojcevski’s life were captured on tape. His “mental and medical health deteriorated so dramatically” amid the drastic weight loss, the lawsuit filed by his brother says, “that [the county] knew or should have known [it] was compromising David’s ability to survive."

    According to a county medical examiner’s autopsy, Stojcevski died of acute withdrawal from chronic benzodiazepine, methadone and opiate medications. County officials defended the actions of the sheriff’s deputies involved in the case, saying they have been unfairly portrayed in the media and that Stojcevski was treated properly and according to procedure.

    “We’ve dissected the video in a timeline down to a minute,” said John Schapka, corporation counsel for Macomb County. “Trust me, we don’t throw people in jail cells naked and don’t feed them.”

    Responding to complaints that jail officials were inattentive, Schapka told the Guardian that in the mental health ward, deputies are told not to cause any “needless physical confrontations."

    “The idea there is not to trigger escalation,” Schapka said. “We don’t escalate situations. That just leads to needless excess force claims, needless confrontations.”

    Schapka denied that medical personnel failed to examine Stojcevski on a regular basis. "He was seen by medical every day he’s there,” he said. Earlier this month, Macomb County sheriff Anthony Wickersham, who declined to comment to the Guardian, spoke at a press conference regarding the initial story on the case by local NBC affiliate WDIV.

    “It was unwarranted, not factual, and may have, in my opinion, been published with reckless disregard,” said Wickersham, who is named as a defendant in the federal lawsuit. The sheriff also said he believed his department deserved an apology from Stojcevski’s attorneys, for pushing the case in the media. Schapka said the case should serve as example of how jails have replaced mental health facilities as a last line of care.

    “In general, when the state started closing all of the mental health facilities … that leaves literally jails and hospitals … as the last place for individuals with pyscho-emotional difficulties,” he said. Friends and family of Stojcevski said that should not excuse the way he was treated over a simple traffic ticket.

    “This is not a criminal, man,” said Jason Howard, a friend. “This could be you or I.”

    The family’s lawsuit claims the county’s treatment of Stojcevski violated his constitutional rights, amounted to “gross negligence” and intentionally inflicted emotional distress. It seeks more than $75,000 in damages and asks for a jury trial. Schapka said he believed the county would prevail in the suit but declined to elaborate, citing “privileged information”. A judge will consider the county’s request to dismiss the lawsuit on Wednesday. The FBI has launched a review of the case, which Sheriff Wickersham has said he welcomed.

    “I promote transparency within my office and look forward to the findings of the FBI,” Wickersham said in a statement earlier this month. “Any death that occurs in the Macomb County jail is tragic,” the statement added, “not only to the family of the deceased but to the men and women of the sheriff’s office who oversee the care and custody of our 1,200 inmates daily.”

    Irrespective of the outcome, Dafinka Stojcevski and her family will continue to grieve their loss.

    By Ryan Felton - The Guardian/Oct. 11, 2015
    Newshawk Crew

    Author Bio

    BT2H is a retired news editor and writer from the NYC area who, for health reasons, retired to a southern US state early, and where BT2H continues to write and to post drug-related news to DF.


  1. chronicroaster
    I wouldn't doubt it in macomb county. Last time I was in there they refused to treat for alcohol WD, stating I didn't look like, or vitals were like alcohol WD, when I drank about a fifth a day for 6 months straight.
  2. Bango Skank
    That's very sad and tragic.
    So unnecessary! Over an unpaid fine for a traffic violation?!

    Family is suing for $75,000? Sounds pretty damn low for a young man's death due to negligence.
  3. chronicroaster
    They lock you up in michigan for anything small. They really love to lock you up for unpaid fines, whether it be court costs, or traffic tickets. If you don't pay by the time requested(10-30 days) then you have a warrant out and face time just like this sad situation. Pay or stay.
  4. sayitaintso
    30 days for $750 fine! Wow...usually its about $100 per day of incarceration (in my state anyway) plus you can get 2 for 1days if you become a trustee ( work in the jail)

    Maybe they didn't realize how severe his withdrawals were..

    Sad..dying in jail all alone
  5. Campaigner8
    I have been there, done the withdrawal thing in a drunk tank for passively pleading for help for alcohol withdrawals at a local hospital.

    Long story short for brevity sake. I was drinking 52 ounces of straight vodka, plus 4 mg's of Halcion...plus an unlimited amount of beer and Valium for over 6 months.

    When placed in the tank, I was shaking uncontrollably and vomiting for 11 hours straight. Then, it was time to leave the jail...I thought. Then, the officer informed me that I owed $35 dollars for an unpaid parking ticket..."cash only sir."

    Well, back into the drunk tank until I called someone to pick me up and pay the fine.

    Just a simple signature to leave the jail. I was shaking so much that I could not sign my own signature. The officer replied, "an illiterate I see...just sign an "X" on the dotted line."

    The friend who picked me up took me back to the same hospital, where I detoxed for 17 days. The addiction specialist who was my primary Physician cited that my life was in imminent risk at my admittance to the hospital.

    It is too bad that the penal system at large has a "who cares, he/she is a useless "addict"attitude with no training in substance abuse.

    Needless suffering in jails and prisons for those with a certifiable medical problem. It is a social problem, not a criminal issue that should be treated as such in my estimation.

  6. TheBigBadWolf
    A person in withdrawal from benzos ( these seem.to have been the problem in this case) belongs in a hospital. Not in a prison cell.

    I don't know what to think about an FBI inquiry, but for sure in my country the Sheriff would be in problems up w his a.. Neck.

    Unbelievable neglect.
  7. Tibby
    This is the most horrific case of criminal neglect by jail personnel perpetrated on a man in their care and custody, I never hoped to see. If the lawyers wouldn't have gotten hold of the prison tape which chronicles every minute of this poor man's agony and eventual death over 17 long days, the lawsuit probably wouldn't even stand a chance.

    The release of the gut-wrenching prison tape to the public was sanctioned by the family to draw attention to the issue and prevent such a tragedy from re-occurring.

    This actually happened back in June 2014. How the accused - especially in light of the visual evidence - still have the audacity to deny any responsibility or neglect and ask for the case to be dismissed goes beyond comprehension.

    The ACLU has asked for a civil rights investigation on 19 October 2015 for "a review of jail's treatment of mentally ill, chronically dependent inmates and pay-or-stay sentences".
  8. Igot5onit
    Right. He died of benzo withdrawal mainly. And the combo of methadone withdrawal on top just made it worst. Cold turkey benzo and methadone withdrawal is the most dangerous thing. If he were just on methadone, he would of survived.

    The county jails around here all vary with methadone. Some 21 day detox. Some none. Some will give you your dose (after a few days of nothing unless you were maybe lucky enough to have take homes and someone bring them in, but 90% chance you won't see anything for a few days in any situation where methadone is allowed).

    Benzos though, you will get none. Damn what a shitty way to go. Thats a torture death right there. Couldn't imagine what he went though. The real issue here is jails having messed up laws on scripts. I bet someone that was on heart meds that may have a heart attack if their meds or stopped would get it. But someone on meds where death is possible if stopped, doesn't get their med.

    The problem is he didn't even have $700 to pay his fine. Doubt he had any legal backing. But after 10 days and already massive weight loss, talking to people that aren't there..he would of been moved if he had a real lawyer. But hopefully now someone will pick this up for free and get the family more than 75k (lol, they can probably get millions) and make a few changes in the system. At the very least get the family plenty of money.
  9. gonzochef
    This is just another example of how broken the penal system is and how law enforcement agencies view addiction as a crime before a medical condition. This is so sad. It posses me off. I have dtoxed from heroin in jail. It is miserable though not life threatening. I never saw a medical professional or anything. No care was given. I was actually made fun of by officers for my stupidity. Thank God I wasn't on benzos...
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