State authorities have received information alleging that the medical record of a Nassau County jail inmate was tampered with in an attempted cover-up of health care decisions made before his heart attack and May death, according to sources with knowledge of the case.
Investigators were told a note was allegedly removed from the jail medical chart of Antonio Marinaccio Jr., 53, of Levittown after his collapse and before his death after days on life support, sources said.
Marinaccio’s jail health record was further falsified, according to the allegations, to say a medical test had been ordered before his heart attack in jail.
The information has emerged after a year in which the jail’s private medical contractor, Armor Correctional Health Services, was the subject of scathing state Commission of Correction reports on inmate deaths, civil litigation in New York and elsewhere, and calls for the company’s county contract to be suspended.
Armor’s practices at the jail also are the target of an investigation by State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office, which Newsday first reported in October. Armor has since received subpoenas in connection with that probe, according to a separate source with knowledge of the investigation.
The state commission, which investigates all inmate deaths, is looking into Marinaccio’s death.
Nassau County Attorney Carnell Foskey said in a statement in response to the allegations regarding Marinaccio’s jail medical record that the county doesn’t comment on pending litigation. He said a question about subpoenas “should be directed to Armor.”
The Marinaccio family’s attorney, Harry Demiris Jr., said he believes Armor is trying to cover up its actions.
“I’ve learned from what I deem a credible source that the record was doctored,” Demiris told Newsday in an exclusive interview.
He and another person familiar with the case said the potentially incriminating information involving the documents was given to authorities.
Demiris and Marinaccio’s family have said he brought records with him to the jail showing he had heart abnormalities and herniated disks and needed substance abuse detox.
The attorney and another source with knowledge of the case said the note that allegedly disappeared from Marinaccio’s jail medical record said the inmate had a substance abuse history and had gone on an alcohol and drug binge right before going to jail, but a jail doctor didn’t want an EKG performed and didn’t want Marinaccio sent to the facility’s infirmary.
After the inmate’s hospitalization, that note went missing, and Marinaccio’s chart also was falsified to say that a chest X-ray had been ordered, Demiris and another source with knowledge of the case said of the allegations.
Armor defends its standard
Armor said, in response, it “has EKG machines in every facility and this test is administered by nurses to those requiring it.”
“There is no incentive for us to withhold such a test which is administered in-house as dictated by the needs of our patients on a consistent and routine basis,” the company added.
Armor, which has repeatedly defended its standard of care in the past year, also said in a statement that a privacy law prohibits the company from commenting specifically on any inmate’s case.
“With respect to the allegation, this is another example of media manipulation by those with their own agenda such as plaintiff attorneys, disgruntled former employees, or organized labor unions,” the company also said. “Further, the company provides multiple sources where a sincere concerned employee can communicate such concerns anonymously. There were no such communications.”
Care found to be inadequate
The attorney general’s probe is said to include looking at allegations of poor patient treatment, along with how Armor handles medical emergencies. The investigation began as the Miami-based company, which reports providing health care to about 40,000 inmates in eight states, repeatedly came under fire in 2015 from the Commission of Correction.
The commission declined to comment on Marinaccio’s case.
“We wouldn’t comment prior to its conclusion,” spokeswoman Janine Kava said of the probe. “If the commission comes across any information that should be referred to another entity . . . including a law enforcement agency, those referrals would be made.”
The state attorney general’s office declined to comment.
The commission, which has oversight of the state’s jails, found in September that Armor has engaged in a broad pattern of negligent medical care and questioned the company’s ability to provide sufficient inmate health care.
The agency also found then that the 2014 jail custody deaths of Nassau inmates John Gleeson, 40, of Oceanside, and Kevin Brown, 47, of Far Rockaway, may have been prevented and that both got deficient care from Armor.
The commission’s findings marked at least the fourth time the agency found Armor’s care inadequate in Nassau inmate fatalities since the county first inked a two-year, $11 million-a-year public-private partnership with the vendor in mid-2011 in an attempt to cut costs. County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, has put the savings at $7 million a year.
In June, the county legislature’s Republican-led Rules Committee extended Armor’s contract for another two years. That happened despite questions from Democrats who pointed to concerns about poor inmate medical care from a former bar association president, a judge and the New York Civil Liberties Union, which Newsday reported in May.
Directed to do inquiry
In its September findings, the commission also directed county legislators to do an inquiry into Armor’s fitness to provide inmate health services in the Nassau jail. The commission said lawmakers should specifically look at Armor’s pattern of failing to properly manage patients’ chronic medical needs, maintain proper and organized patient records and provide needed hospitalization for patients.
In October, Sheriff Michael Sposato refused to answer a Democratic legislator’s questions about Armor during a public budget hearing, days after the commission’s September findings about the jail medical contractor became public.
A spokesman for Sposato has said amid criticism of Armor that the jail medical contract — previously held by Nassau University Medical Center — has enhanced overall public safety since a greater number of inmate health services are provided in-house. The East Meadow hospital is down the block from the jail.
In the wake of the commission’s findings, Mangano’s administration also rejected a call from inmate advocates and county Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) to suspend Armor’s contract.
While Mangano referred the findings to Foskey’s office, Foskey later issued a statement saying Armor’s contract couldn’t be canceled “without subjecting taxpayers to significant liability as the allegations have not been substantiated to date.”
Family’s plans to sue
In the meantime, Marinaccio’s family is moving forward with plans to sue the county and Armor.
Demiris filed a notice of claim in July on behalf of Marinaccio’s family, citing the county, the jail and correction officials among parties responsible for the man’s wrongful death. The family has claimed Marinaccio became brain dead after not getting proper medical care and suffering the heart attack in jail custody.
Their notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, also alleged officials at the jail failed “to employ appropriate care and resuscitation efforts” while the inmate was “totally reliant upon his warders.”
Marinaccio’s collapse came two days after he surrendered on April 24 to serve a 1-year sentence after pleading guilty to charges including felony DWI and resisting arrest.
On April 26, a sheriff’s department official called Marinaccio’s family and said he’d been found in his cell at 3 a.m. in cardiac arrest, before he was brought to Nassau University Medical Center and then transferred to North Shore University Hospital, relatives have said.
Marinaccio’s family said he died May 2 after they gave permission to turn off life support after tests showed he was brain dead.
But the family also has said they learned Marinaccio wasn’t brought to the first hospital until 4:18 a.m., what Demiris previously called “a significant delay.”
The family also had alleged in August that law enforcement officials beat Marinaccio while he was in custody. In contrast, the head of Nassau’s union for correction officers has said officers were actually the first people to give emergency first aid to Marinaccio.
Legal action from Marinaccio’s family comes as the county and Armor also are embroiled in a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed in November by the family of Gleeson. The father of two died after allegedly not getting proper treatment for a medical condition in which swelling episodes can lead to breathing emergencies.
The family of Brown, a former car service dispatcher who suffered seizures and whom the commission found got inadequate medical and mental health care before his custody death, also is planning litigation.
Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit from the family of Bartholomew Ryan, 32, who served as a U.S. Marine in Iraq before hanging himself at the jail in 2012 in a case where the commission found Armor’s care inadequate, also is ongoing.