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Oklahoma County inmate medical releases at center of hospital lawsuit

by Andrew Knittle Published: May 13, 2013
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An inmate released from the Oklahoma County jail just before he was taken to a hospital with a serious medical condition has failed to appear for a court date related to a November robbery charge.

Christy Demelvin Webb, who has a lengthy criminal history including a 1997 conviction for escape from a penitentiary, was being held at the jail, accused of robbing a Dollar General store while wearing a wig and fake mustache.

An Oklahoma County district judge allowed Webb to be released on his own recognizance, a “Medical OR,” even though Webb was not in court and could not sign his own name.

According to a lawsuit filed by OU Medical Center, Webb is one of 37 inmates who were released from the Oklahoma County jai just before they were admitted to the Oklahoma City hospital.

The hospital is suing Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel in district court, alleging the elected lawman essentially abandoned Webb and at least 36 others to avoid paying for costly medical treatments.

The hospital's attorneys claim the sheriff's office owes their client about $1 million.

“The county and the sheriff have developed a practice of ... purporting to ‘release' inmates from custody before, and even after transporting them to the hospital, and then deny liability for the necessary medical care by saying the inmate is no longer in the county's custody,” the attorneys wrote in a petition filed in April.

“This practice ... is a blatant effort by the county and the sheriff to absolve themselves of their statutory and constitutional duty to provide medical care to inmates.”

The hospital's attorneys claim the sheriff has been issuing “Medical OR” releases for some time and will likely continue to do so unless a judge forces them to stop.

According to documents filed by the hospital's attorneys, the sheriff's office is being charged 6 percent interest on the remaining balance of $924,085. Because of this, the hospital claims it is owed an additional $29,640 and that interest continues to accrue at a rate of $151.90 per day.

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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