Of late, attorney David Lane has represented several inmates or their families in regard to alleged substandard care of prisoners in custody.
Examples include the case of Christopher Lopez, whose jailers joked and laughed while he slowly died (the Colorado Department of Corrections agreed to pay $3 million to settle the case), as well as the still-pending matter of Zackary Moffitt'; he died of a jail heart attack days after those in charge of him allegedly ignored his medical needs.
Mark Traxler didn't perish as a result of his medical care in jail. However, a lawsuit filed by Lane on Traxler's behalf alleges that his complaints about a painfully abscessed tooth were ignored for weeks — after which untrained personnel tried (and mostly failed) to yank out his tooth with pliers.
Traxler remains at inmate at the Logan County Detention Center, and as 9News points out, there are some good reasons why he's there: His arrest record since 2010 includes drunk driving, domestic violence and assault.
The defendants named in the lawsuit include Logan County Sheriff Brett Powell, Deputy Sheriff Max Arilliana, nurse Casey Williams and Health Care Partners Systems, a private operation with which the county contracts to provide for the medical needs of inmates.
On March 1, 2013, the complaint says Traxler developed an abscess in his molar and requested that he see a dentist to treat the condition, as well as medication to deal with his pain.
In response, jail personnel gave him some Ibuprofen — but it didn't exactly do the trick.
By March 18, the suit maintains that Traxler was in such agony from the tooth that he could barely eat. At that point, Williams and Arilliana are said to have approached Traxler in a common area of the jail and "presented him with a pair of rusty pliers and a roll of gauze, essentially instructing him that if he wanted any relief for his unendurable pain, he would have to take steps to extract his own tooth back in the unit, without any assistance from any trained dental personnel."
With no other options available, the suit maintains, Traxler took the pair up on their offer. He rounded up several inmates, including one referred to in the document as "Big Jake (not a dentist)," to take out the tooth in question. Here's an excerpt from the suit about what's claimed to have happened next:
Approximately four inmates held Mr. Traxler down while one other inmate began to attempt to extract the tooth with the pliers. The tooth, however, was not cooperating with the untrained efforts of the inmate and it was not coming out. More force was applied by the inmate when suddenly, instead of coming out, the tooth broke off at the root. This caught the extracting inmate by surprise and because he was applying significant force to the task, the pliers quickly slammed into another tooth and broke that tooth off simultaneously with the infected tooth, leaving Mr. Traxler screaming in agony with two broken teeth.
Was that finally enough to get Traxler a dentist appointment? Not according to the complaint. He was given antibiotics and more Ibuprofen over the next six weeks or so, but it took until April 30, following lots more grievances, before he was finally taken to an actual dentist.
Logan County officials aren't commenting on the case.
Look below to see Traxler's booking photo and the lawsuit in its entirety.