Judge: Allegheny County not responsible in 2007 jail suicide

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Allegheny County was not responsible for a 2007 suicide in its jail, according to an order issued today by U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan.

The judge granted the county's motion to be let out of a 2009 civil suit filed by the family of John Simeone, a narcotics addict and sometime drug dealer who was 36 when he hung himself in his cell.

Remaining in the case as defendants are Allegheny Correctional Health Services, a nonprofit created by the Health Department to provide medical care at the jail, and that organization's chief operating officer.

Judge Lenihan noted that the Simeone family claimed that a corrections officer just laughed when he threatened to kill himself if he was not allowed out of his cell to go to church.

But that officer was trained in suicide prevention, even if that training wasn't followed, the judge found.

The judge also wrote extensively of a 2011 report by Dr. Bruce Dixon, then director of the Health Department, which indicated that suicides in the jail tended to occur after training lapsed due to leadership changes.

But, she added, "nowhere in the report ... does it state that the jail was not training staff on suicide prevention at the time of [Simeone's] death."

Steve Barth, an attorney for the Simeone family, said he will appeal Judge Lenihan's order.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord


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