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.
Using records filed along with the lawsuit, it was learned that Webb's medical bill totaled more than $500,000.
Court records state that Webb was treated for “intracerebral hemorrhage” and that he stayed at the hospital for about a month.
Mark Myers, a spokesman for the Oklahoma County sheriff's office, confirmed that Webb was released Dec. 10 but denied that Whetsel was dumping the inmate and shirking responsibility.
Myers said Webb has booked into the county jail Nov. 8 with a “pre-existing medical condition ... that did not present a need for medical attention until later while in our custody.”
Myers said Webb was taken first to St. Anthony hospital and apparently was later moved to OU Medical Center.
“The jail was not involved in any decision to relocate Webb to any other medical facility,” he said. “The release was issued by an Oklahoma County district judge so that he could be treated for his medical issues at a hospital.
Myers said the sheriff “does not have the authority to order or issue any O.R. bond releases.”
“All releases from jail, including O.R. bond releases, must be ordered by a judge,” he said.
Myers would not say what Webb's medical condition is, citing federal privacy laws.
The lawsuit filed in April by OU Medical Center against Whetsel is pending. It is not the first time the hospital has sued the sheriff, though.
The hospital took Whetsel to court two other times after Whetsel simply refused to pay medical bills of prisoners in the county's custody.
The previous suits, filed in 2005 and 2010, were settled after Oklahoma County officials agreed to pay more than $8 million to OU Medical Center.