Mother sues over jail footage related to son’s death

EVERETT — The mother of a severely allergic Mukilteo man who died in the Snohomish County Jail in 2012 is pushing for fines against the county after a protracted public records fight.

Attorneys representing Rosemary Saffioti were seeking jail security video footage from the morning her son, Michael, collapsed and died. He’d been booked the day before on a misdemeanor marijuana possession warrant out of Lynnwood.

Saffioti’s attorneys filed a public records request for the tapes, but initially were told the video didn’t exist. Later, after finding a reference to their existence in a report on a Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office death investigation, they pressed again for disclosure.

They filed a lawsuit Oct. 2 in King County Superior Court and ultimately got the jail security footage they were seeking.

“There is an impression of bad faith,” said attorney Cheryl Snow, who is representing Rosemary Saffioti.

A $10 million claim for damages was filed earlier this month alleging Michael Saffioti was denied adequate and timely medical care after an allergic reaction to the breakfast he was served in the jail.

In November 2012, a records supervisor for the jail responded to the public records request, saying there was no video showing Michael Saffioti or jail staff during the time he was incarcerated, according to court records. She told the lawyers that video recordings are only maintained for 60 days as required state law.

The lawyers learned otherwise in July 2013 and renewed their request. Records showed that a sheriff’s detective investigating Saffioti’s death had made copies of the tape and booked them into evidence.

In August, the jail records supervisor told attorneys representing Saffioti that the video did exist after all and that she would mail a copy. The video never arrived through the mail.

Arrangements a month later were made for a paralegal to pick up a copy of the video, but it only covered a 41-minute time frame after Saffioti had collapsed.

Saffioti’s attorney pushed for video from earlier that morning. Snow said the additional footage was made available only after a lawsuit was filed.

The video “definitely supports our theory,” she said.

The public records lawsuit seeks $100 a day in penalties against the county during the time the records were not made available. It also seeks attorney fees.

The Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office is looking into the matter.

“We are reviewing the allegations in the complaint and we’re working with the department of corrections and the sheriff’s office to determine what responses they have made to the records request,” chief civil deputy prosecutor Jason Cummings said.

Michael Saffioti is among the eight people who have died at the jail since 2010.

In addition to his case, a $10 million wrongful death claim was filed in March on behalf of Lyndsey Lason. That claim alleges that the 27-year-old woman’s death could have been prevented if staff had provided timely and adequate medical attention to Lason. The Everett mother died from a pulmonary infection in 2011.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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