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Judge orders sheriff to turn over medical files to lawyer

By CHASE SQUIRES

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000


DADE CITY -- A circuit judge on Friday ordered Pasco County Sheriff Lee Cannon to turn over county jail medical staff records to a lawyer already suing him in federal court and threatening to sue him in state court.

Judge Maynard Swanson ruled the sheriff must turn over records of employees serving in the medical wing in 1998 and the medical policies at the Pasco County jail in Land O'Lakes by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Seymour Honig is suing the Sheriff's Office in federal court on behalf of former inmate Duane Bethea, claiming officials violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing proper medical care to his client, who is paralyzed from the chest down.

Bethea, 41, claims in his federal suit that poor medical care at the jail contributed to a hip ulcer and a urinary tract infection.

Honig told Swanson he plans to file a medical malpractice case against the sheriff in Circuit Court soon and said he needed the judge to order Cannon to turn over medical personnel records before the statute of limitations runs out.

"We've been prohibited, prevented, from inspecting, examining and copying the records," Honig said.

Bethea was arrested in 1996 on drug charges and pleaded guilty to the sale of marijuana. He was sentenced to probation, and then was charged repeatedly with violating that probation and subsequent house arrest by testing positive for cocaine and leaving his home, according to court records.

His lawsuit stems from a 1998 violation of probation arrest. Honig claims Bethea did not get adequate care in the jail from April 15 to April 30, 1998.

Honig said he needs to see jail records to determine who was involved in his client's care and if they were employees of the Sheriff's Office or if they were under an independent contract.

Cannon's attorney, Michael Randall, told Swanson he was willing to turn over the records, but was struggling with the broad demands Honig made.

He said he would comply with the court's order.

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