CLEVELAND — *EDITOR'S NOTE: The video in the player above originally aired in October of 2019
The family of a Cleveland man who died while being held at the Cuyahoga County Jail almost two years ago has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on his behalf.
A statement released by the office of local civil rights attorney Paul J. Cristallo claims jail staff treated 36-year-old Nicholas Colbert "with indifference, callousness, and a disregard for human decency." Colbert, a Cleveland native and National Guard veteran who served in northern Africa, died by suicide inside his cell in May of 2019 after being arrested in Maple Heights for "a low-level drug offense."
"Nicholas Michael Colbert was a loving son, brother and adoring father to four beautiful young girls," Cristallo wrote. "He worked hard and showed care and compassion to everyone around him. Sadly, none of these strengths could prevent Nicholas from getting caught in the trap of addiction."
According to Cristallo, Colbert becane addicted to pain medication after breaking his collarbone and had attempted suicide just five weeks before his arrest. Yet despite Colbert showing "obvious symptoms of someone despondent and in despair," workers did not take appropriate measures to protect him or even provide him with medication or counseling. Cristello also alleges the jail falsified records to state required checks on Cristello were performed when, in fact, they were not.
"The contempt Cuyahoga County showed for Nicholas begs the questions, 'Why even have a special portion of the jail dedicated to military veterans?'" Cristallo asked. "'Why even have a special portion of the jail dedicated to detainees and inmates with mental health issues?'"
Colbert's death was the ninth at the jail from 2018-19, all of which touched off a massive scandal that brought allegations of excessive force, poor medical care, and cover-ups by top officials involved with the facility. State and federal investigators both found multiple violations, and several jail and county leaders have either lost their jobs or faced criminal charges in the time since.
"This lawsuit is being filed to hold Cuyahoga County jail officials and employees accountable for their misdeeds and omissions and to obtain justice for Nicholas and his family," Cristallo, who has represented plaintiffs in other jail-related suits against the county, said. "We want to ensure that a preventable tragedy like this never happens again."