Jail drug treatment, ACLU debate case results in six-month sentence

·5 min read

May 26—TRAVERSE CITY — A Grawn man who previously allowed his medical history to be discussed in open court and was the plaintiff in a civil rights lawsuit filed against Grand Traverse County, was sentenced to jail after no-showing a February court hearing.

Court records show Cyrus Patson, 21, also faces new charges after being arrested May 10, and charged with two counts of assault with intent to do bodily harm, one count of resisting and obstructing and one count of being a habitual offender.

Thirteenth Circuit Court Judge Kevin Elsenheimer on May 20 sentenced Patson to six months in jail on the previous charge of interfering with an electronic monitoring device.

The judge stated the six-month sentence with 71 days credit for time served, was for accusations related to removing an ankle tether only, and by law could not take into account any pending charges in 86th District Court.

"This defendant has remained consistently involved in at least alleged criminal activity," Elsenheimer said, after denying a request by defense attorney Jesse Williams, who sought probation or a youth training school for Patson.

Williams represents Patson on previous charges; another attorney, Thomas Seger, is listed in court documents as representing Patson on the most recent charges.

Williams said Patson has been treated for an opioid use disorder diagnosis since 2013, that OUD is a chronic disease recognized by the medical community and the court shouldn't impose a blanket policy, but rather treat each individual's medical needs.

Elsenheimer said there were cases where the court and the jail had allowed medically assisted treatment including Patson's, and the defendant was not currently under care, according to the results of recent drug screens.

"He frankly should have kept his nose as clean as possible," Elsenheimer said, "given that he was not being required to come to jail while the jail was coming to terms with how to manage his addiction issues."

Patson was, in June 2021, fitted with a tether and assigned to a sober living house as a condition of probation for resisting arrest and use of a controlled substance, records show.

When additional charges related to contempt of court and domestic violence sent officers to the sober living house to arrest Patson, law enforcement records show he cut the tether, fled through a window, and initiated a short foot chase.

Williams previously said he believed Patson was experiencing extreme anxiety over the prospect of forced detoxing while incarcerated.

Traverse City Police officers arrested Patson without incident a short time later and he was lodged in Grand Traverse County's jail.

Patson, who also has a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence, has openly acknowledged his criminal offenses.

After Patson described symptoms of exactly what he feared — detoxing in jail — Williams in 2021 fought in court to have the jail provide Suboxone as part of Patson's medically assisted treatment plan for his substance use disorder.

An 86th District Court judge during hearings on emergency petitions filed by Williams, twice ruled it is the county's sheriff, and not the court, who is in charge of jail policies and procedures.

Sheriff Tom Bensley on Monday said it was largely county taxpayers, and not Patson, who had so far footed the financial cost of Patson running afoul of the law.

"I think he has been given many opportunities," Bensley said. "I think he's where he needs to be. He has no respect for the criminal justice system."

Bensley was among three named defendants in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in October in federal court, seeking to force the jail to provide Suboxone to Patson, during any future incarcerations.

The suit also named Undersheriff Mike Shea and Jail Administrator Capt. Chris Barsheff — both of whom have since spent time and resources researching MAT for those incarcerated, records show.

Following public and private criticism of WellPath, the jail's previous provider of health services, the company's contract was not renewed and a new provider was selected.

Grand Traverse County Commissioners in February voted unanimously to hire another firm, County Health Support Services, to provide medical, mental health and psychiatric care in the jail, as previously reported.

The ACLU lawsuit was settled out of court, records show, with the county agreeing to provide Patson with Sublocade during any incarceration, cover the cost of the medication and pay about $25,000 toward ACLU legal fees and costs.

ACLU senior staff attorney Syeda Davidson said the ACLU was not providing criminal representation to Patson and declined comment on his case, but said those in jail should receive necessary healthcare.

"People who are incarcerated have a right to humane conditions and that includes medical treatment," said Davidson. "Opioid use disorder is a medical condition that requires medical treatment."

Both Suboxone and Sublocade contain buprenorphine, the active ingredient which has been successful in reducing withdrawal symptoms and opioid cravings, studies show.

Sublocade is injected once a month, making it less likely to be abused, stolen or shared — a concern sometimes expressed by those critical of providing MAT for those incarcerated.

Patson's treatment could be impacted by the results of a urinalysis conducted at the jail May 10, Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg said during the May 20 sentencing hearing.

"While he did have the Suboxone prescription, he was not taking it," Moeggenberg said. "And as the court knows, because you conducted the arraignment hearing, when he did come into the jail he was tested, and tested positive for a variety of different illegal drugs. He did not have Suboxone in his system at that time."

Moeggenberg said she understood Patson was again detoxing in the jail and once that process was complete, she didn't know whether there was a need to re-start Suboxone.

"We will continue to monitor the situation," Davidson said. "He's entitled to medical treatment just like anyone else."

Patson's original sentencing date for the charge of removing the tether was Feb. 18; records show a warrant was issued when he did not appear in court for the hearing.