Former Louisiana correctional officer pleads guilty to denying aid to inmate dying from rare blood condition

The teen mother had been found dead lying face-down on the floor of an isolated cell on April 1, 2014


                            Former Louisiana correctional officer pleads guilty to denying aid to inmate dying from rare blood condition

A former correctional officer from the St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana pleaded guilty to denying medical help to a female inmate who was found dead in a prison cell after being in the parish jail for 10 days, according to federal court records.

According to reports, 19-year-old Nimali Henry -- a teen mom from Chalmette suffering from a rare blood disorder -- was found dead lying face-down on the floor of an isolated prison cell on April 1, 2014.

Timothy Williams from Meraux was convicted for violating the civil rights of Nimali, who a report from the coroner said, probably died of a blood clot.

Williams, a former corporal, is one of the four former correctional officers accused of deprivation of rights under color of law in connection with the young mother's death.

According to Times-Picayune, an indictment from December 2015 also charged Andre Dominick from Arabi, Debra Becnel from Violet and Lisa Vaccarella from Chalmette with not providing the correct medication and treatment to Henry.

They also made false statements to the FBI which had been investigating Henry's death. St. Bernard Parish Sheriff James Pohlmann said when the indictment was happening that the four officers were then placed on indefinite administrative leave. Williams later resigned from the Sheriff's Office. 



 

Court records show that Dominick, Becnel, and Vaccarella are all set to appear in federal court for trial on November 5.

Henry was arrested on March 21, 2014, after she went to try and see her 4-month-old daughter who had been with the biological father at another woman's home in the parish. According to a report from the Sheriff's Office, Henry entered the home even though she was told not to and was booked into the parish jail on the charges of disturbing the peace, simple battery and unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling.

Henry's sister told the Times-Picayune in 2014 that her sister's bond had been set at $25,000 and that "nobody could come up with [it]". That would be the last time any family member or friend would see Henry alive.

Family members said that she had been diagnosed with thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, or TTP, which is a rare blood disorder that can cause clots to form in the small blood vessels around the body. Court documents show that the condition is life-threatening and that it requires regular medication.

When she was jailed at the St. Bernard Parish Prison, Henry had not received any medication, medical evaluation or treatment for the life-threatening condition that she very obviously suffered from. Even though she and the other inmates would constantly ask for medical attention, it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Williams and Vaccarella would constantly keep "mocking and ridiculing" Henry while watching jail footage of her increasing struggles to stand, walk, or function normally.

The night of March 31, 2014, when Williams was starting his shift, Henry had been moved to an isolation cell and had been placed under a "suicide watch". During the shift, Williams said he heard Henry moaning and also saw her lying down naked and motionless on the bunk in the cell with one of her arms hanging off the side. When he went to the area, later on, he found her naked and lying face-down on the floor while motionless.

Williams and the other officers repeatedly ignored requests from Henry and the other inmates for medical help (Source: Justice For Nimali Henry/Facebook)
Williams and the other officers repeatedly ignored requests from Henry and the other inmates for medical help (Source: Justice For Nimali Henry/Facebook)

Court records state that he failed to intervene and help Henry even then and she died in the cell as a result of this shortly after his shift ended on April 1, 2014. Williams' attorney, Claude Kelly told the publication that he did not have any comments on his client's guilty plea. He said: "The documents speak for themselves."  

The case is currently being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorneys Tracey N. Knight and Chandra Menon and Trial Attorney Christine M. Siscaretti from the Civil Rights Division's Criminal Section. If convicted at the sentencing on January 16 before Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle, Williams faces up to life behind bars. A civil lawsuit is still pending against the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office on the same accusations. The lawsuit had been filed in early 2015 by the biological father of Henry's daughter on the behalf of the child.