Vet's mom sues Nassau over his jail suicide

After the funeral Mass for Bartholomew Ryan, family

After the funeral Mass for Bartholomew Ryan, family members follow the coffin out of St. Barnabas Church. Pictured is Thomas Ryan, left, Bartholomew's brother, his mother Lilyann Ryan, center, and sister-in-law Nicole. (Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan)

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The mother of an Iraq War veteran who last month hanged himself at the Nassau County jail while facing a DWI charge has filed a wrongful death claim against the county seeking up to $22 million in damages.

Lawyers for Lilyann Ryan, of Seaford, allege that the jail was negligent in the care and supervision of her son, Bartholomew Ryan, leading to his suicide.

According to the claim, a legal requirement that amounts to a first step toward a lawsuit, jail officials should have taken steps to protect Ryan, 32, because they knew he was battling post-traumatic stress disorder and drug addiction.

Ryan had served a 2005 combat deployment near Al Taqaddum, Iraq. His death was the fifth reported suicide at the East Meadow jail in the past two years.

Nassau County has had the second-highest number of jail suicides in New York State since 2010, according to the law firm of Parker Waichman, which is representing Lilyann Ryan. The claim was served Monday on county officials.

"The family is ultimately doing this because Bart served his country and was let down by the system as a whole, and by a county that was supposed to keep him safe," said Raymond Silverman, an attorney at the firm. "What happened at the Nassau County Correctional Facility has been a civil rights crisis that is taking place right in our backyard."

Nassau Sheriff Michael Sposato, who oversees the 1,600-inmate jail, released a statement that said suicide usually results from "a multitude of complex factors and personal issues," and that "not all suicides are foreseeable or preventable."

Sposato said jail staffers "do a phenomenal job of keeping the facility and all persons at the facility safe and secure, notwithstanding the difficult and dangerous nature of their duties."

Ryan was jailed Feb. 23 after a court hearing before Nassau District Court Judge Andrew Engel, who had imposed a $5,000 bail that Ryan couldn't raise. He faced misdemeanor DWI charges stemming from an August 2010 traffic stop in which he was allegedly found to have methadone in his system.

Early the next morning, guards found him hanging from a noose fashioned from a bedsheet. Doctors at nearby Nassau University Medical Center were unable to revive him.

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