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Merrick man to sue Nassau, jail after grenade injury, lawyers say

An aerial view of the Nassau County Jail

An aerial view of the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow Monday April 4, 2011. Photo Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Attorneys for a Merrick man who say their client’s palm was disfigured by an exploding stun grenade that correction officers threw into his Nassau jail cell have notified county and jail officials that they will sue.

The notice of claim, a legal requirement when a party intends to sue a municipality, charges that Jose Miguel Rodriguez, 40, endured excessive force when correction officers tried to escort him out of the East Meadow facility on Nov. 26, shortly after his girlfriend posted his $50,000 bail.

The incident was reported to the state Commission of Correction in Albany, which oversees all prisons and jails in the state. A spokeswoman declined to comment on the case but said the agency reviews all serious incidents and some warrant further investigation.

The case is also being reviewed by Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, a spokesman said.

Rodriguez, a construction worker in jail on criminal mischief and burglary charges, had not been receiving proper medication for a bipolar disorder while in the jail, his attorneys said, adding that he was disoriented and recoiled when officers came to escort him from the facility.

The officers threw in the stun grenade and, when the device did not detonate, wrestled with him, the attorneys said. They added that during the struggle with several officers, the detainee fell onto the grenade, and it exploded, ripping out a chunk of his palm.

He has been treated at Nassau University Medical Center where he has undergone two operations for the injured hand, which has a hole in the skin and muscle between his thumb and index finger.

“It is an outrageous abuse of power to use an explosive device against a detainee suffering from mental crisis compounded by the fact he was in custody and presented no danger to himself or others,” said Richard Obiol of Freeport, one of Rodriguez’s attorneys.

Nassau County Attorney Carnell Foskey declined to comment, citing county policy on pending litigation, and jail officials could not be reached for comment.

Steve Civardi of Freeport, Rodriguez’s other attorney, said Rodriguez had been brought to the jail after he was arrested on Nov. 15, for an incident on the Nautical Mile in Freeport, in which Rodriguez had climbed aboard a boat he didn’t own.

Civardi said Rodriguez had not been taking his medication and was delusional. He was arrested and charged with second-degree criminal mischief, third-degree burglary and resisting arrest and is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 24, court records show.

“There are no circumstances that can justify use of a stun grenade against a solitary inmate with a mental illness who was to be released when bail was posted,” Civardi said. “His injuries are horrific.”


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