By Jessie Stensland
COUPEVILLE — A man assaulted inside the Island County Jail in 2015 has filed a $3 million claim against the county, arguing that jail personnel were negligent in housing him with a violent and aggressive inmate.
Eric Mason, 50, said he suffers from a traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome, making it nearly impossible for him to work. He formerly lived on Camano Island and now lives in Spokane.
Mason said he was in a cell at the jail on Dec. 27, 2015, with two other inmates. One of them, Jeremy Thompson, punched Mason, causing him to fall.
“My head hit the floor like a basketball. That’s what my friend told me,” he said, referring another cellmate who witnessed the incident.
Mason said jail employees didn’t take the assault seriously at first and delayed in taking him to the hospital for treatment.
“They could see it on video,” he said. “They should have called the paramedics right away. That’s what normal jails would do.”
Mason was in jail after being arrested for investigation of voyeurism. Thompson, 29, was arrested for investigation of attempted murder.
An investigator’s report states that a deputy in the jail’s control room saw the assault on video and notified other corrections deputies, who responded to the cell.
The video of the incident showed Mason and Thompson in a boxing stance and then Thompson punched Mason in the head. Thompson later told an investigator that he was angry because Mason made a racist comment, the investigator’s report states.
The corrections deputies arrived to find Mason on the floor, bleeding from the mouth and suffering from a swollen cheek. Mason refused medical attention, the report claims.
The next day, the investigator spoke to Mason, noting that he was “dazed and confused” by the previous day’s event.
A few days later, Mason provided a written statement which seemed to indicate he had received medical treatment. Mason wrote that his headache never went away, his jaw hurt and he felt disoriented.
At some point doctors determined Mason had a broken jaw, the report states.
In a recent interview, Mason said he was never the same after the assault.
He applied for disability benefits, he claimed, but had trouble getting evidence of his injury from Island County.
Thompson was charged with assaulting Mason and pleaded guilty to assault in the third degree.
In the other case, he pleaded guilty to residential burglary and assault in the second degree for sneaking into his father’s house and assaulting him, court documents state. Thompson was sentenced to two years and five months in prison.
Mason went on trial for secretly setting up a camera in a bathroom of a home he was sharing with family members and capturing video of a husband and wife without their knowledge.
One of the videos showed the woman getting in and out of the shower.
Mason was convicted of four counts of voyeurism and a count of attempted voyeurism. He was sentenced to 57 months in prison.
Mason said he was wrongfully convicted and is appealing the case. He told an investigator that he set up the camera to prove a family member wasn’t washing his hands and was making the family sick when preparing food.
This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sibling paper to the Herald.