Pepper Spray death: Settlement reached in death of Lee County inmate Nicholas Christie

10:04 AM, Feb 15, 2013   |    comments
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FORT MYERS, Florida (News-Press) - A settlement has been reached in the case of an Ohio man who died after he had been in custody at the Lee County Jail.

Nick Christie was 62 when he was arrested on a disorderly intoxication charge March 25, 2009, and then on March 27 on a trespassing charge. Christie was taken to the hospital March 29 and died two days later.

The medical examiner termed Christie's death a homicide and pointed to restraint and pepper-spraying by guards as factors.

His family filed a civil lawsuit against Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott, Prison Health Services Inc. and individual deputies and nurses at the jail. The suit alleged those involved were guilty of assault and battery, excessive force, and deliberate indifference to Christie's medical condition. His family told The News-Press in 2009 that he suffered from back and heart problems.

A photo from inside the jail showed Christie strapped into a restraint chair, a spit mask covering his face and pepper spray staining the upper half of his bloated, naked torso.

Reports show that Christie was sprayed more than a dozen times.

Joyce Christie, Nick's widow, said she's glad it's over, but used the quote "I won the battle, but I lost the war," to describe her feelings.

"There has not ever been justice for Nick, so to speak," she said. "Nobody was ever found guilty, nobody was ever relieved of their job, which upsets me."

In 2010, the state attorney's office cleared five corrections deputies - Kurtis Calhoun, Daniel Falzone, Monshay Gibbs, Frank Hansen and Dathan Pyle - of criminal wrongdoing in the case.

Attorney Nick DiCello, who represents Joyce Christie, told our partners at WINK News that a new type of grieving begins now.

"She's been living with this component of the grieving process since the day of Nick's death and now that it is coming to a conclusion, it has been my experience in cases like this, it can be a whole new type of grieving process now that there isn't the day to day pursuit of justice," he said.

The amount of the settlement was not disclosed.

Sheriff Mike Scott released this statement in response to a request for comment:

"This afternoon, a settlement was reached during mediation in the lawsuit brought against the Sheriff's Office and its inmate health provider by the wife of the late Nicholas Christie. The Sheriff's Office portion of the settlement is paid through the Florida Sheriff's Risk Management Fund, a self-insurance program administered on behalf of many agencies across the state of Florida. The other portion will be paid by the inmate health provider to the Lee County Jail. The shares will be itemized in the final documents which must be filed in both the Federal and Ohio courts."

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