Originally created 12/03/99

County not liable for expenses



AIKEN -- Aiken County will not have to pay the medical bills of an inmate injured when three Good Samaritans chased him down after an alleged home invasion in September, a judge ordered Thursday.

In a reversal, Circuit Judge Marc Westbrook said the jail will not be responsible for a dislocated shoulder and bruised kidneys suffered by burglary suspect Oscar Sullivan.

During a hearing, County Attorney Andy Anderson argued that Mr. Sullivan was injured when three men chased him down Sept. 25. The men were not police officers and, therefore, the county was not responsible for his medical treatment, he said.

But defense attorney David Mauldin argued that the men were making a citizens arrest and acting as law enforcement officials under state law.

"Since the state granted that power, the state should be responsible for that power and the consequences," Mr. Mauldin said.

Judge Westbrook reversed an earlier decision and ruled Mr. Sullivan must fund his treatment.

The original order came during a bond hearing Oct. 2 when the judge agreed to hold Mr. Sullivan without bond until trial. He said the tradeoff was that the county had to pay his medical bills.

But County Administrator Bill Shepherd vowed to fight the order, arguing that the decision contradicted the policy of the jail, which pays only for injuries sustained after a suspect is in its custody.

Mr. Sullivan is accused of burglarizing a local woman's home Sept. 25 and then attacking her when she discovered him. Police say the woman escaped and ran next door, telling neighbors that she had been attacked. The neighbors caught Mr. Sullivan, scuffled with him and sat on him until officers arrived, police said.

Mr. Sullivan was examined on Oct. 19 only after his wife paid for the visit, and a doctor said he needed more treatment.

His attorney said the order means Mr. Sullivan will not be treated unless it is an emergency.

Mr. Sullivan, a 32-year-old with a long criminal history, is charged with first-degree burglary, assault and battery with intent to kill, kidnapping and breaking and entering an auto.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.