A federal judge has ordered Maricopa County to pay more than $2.6 million in legal fees and costs in the case of a Scottsdale man who died while strapped into a restraining chair at the county jail.
Judge James Teilborg rejected various arguments by attorneys for the county that the fee to Michael Manning for handling the case of Charles Agster was excessive.
Teilborg said Manning faced unusual obstacles in trying the case, including the fact that Agster was brought to jail high on methamphetamines and what the judge said is the tendency of juries to favor law enforcement.
Jack McIntyre, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, promised an appeal.
Agster, 33, died in 2001 after being arrested and put into a restraint chair. The lawsuit by his parents claims sheriff’s detention officers improperly restrained him and then did not get him medical help after he stopped breathing.
An autopsy concluded Agster died from “positional asphyxia due to restraint” but the death was ruled an accident.
In the lawsuit, Manning said Agster had an “obvious need for medical and psychiatric treatment.” He said that despite a county policy to refer those who exhibit bizarre or irrational behavior for special treatment, Agster was placed in a restraint chair.
A jury originally came up with a much larger verdict that was ultimately cut to a total of just $4 million, including $1 million against the sheriff’s office, a finding that was not appealed.