Lead Investigator: Wrong Policy Cited in Jail Nurse Indictment

The lead criminal investigator in the death of Mathew Ajibade in the Chatham County Detention Center admitted in testimony Monday that the document providing the key rationale for involuntary manslaughter charges against a jail nurse was the wrong policy.

Special Agent Cyrus Purdiman testified in cross examination that he only learned the policy was wrong last week, during opening statements in the trial of former Chatham County Sheriff’s Deputies Jason Kenny and Maxine Evans and Corizon Correctional Healthcare nurse Gregory Brown.

The document was Corizon’s policy for checking inmates placed in restraints under the orders of a clinician. It requires nurses to check the vital signs of the restrained inmate every fifteen minutes.

But Brown’s attorney, Tom Withers, revealed the critical omission: only a portion of the policy had been turned over to GBI investigators by Chatham County Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs Division Chief Maj. Rusty Smith.

The seven-page document was faxed from Corizon to Maj. Smith Jan. 6. Special Agent Purdiman testified that only three pages of the document were given to him by Smith the following day.

Among the missing pages: the title page outlining procedures for inmates ordered into restraints by clinicians. The actual Corizon policy for inmates ordered into restraints for security purposes, like Mathew Ajibade, required nurses to check on the detainee “at regular intervals.”

Ajibade was ordered into restraints by the jail watch commander that night, former Lt. Debra Johnson, after his violent confrontation with deputies in the jail’s booking area.

GBI Investigator Purdiman testified under oath to the Chatham County Grand Jury in June that the policy required Brown to conduct 15-minute checks. Purdiman maintained in testimony Monday that he was simply working with the information that had been given to him.

The incomplete transfer of the policy raises serious questions about how the investigation into Ajibade’s death took place. Purdiman admitted he never contacted Corizon directly for their policy, and afternoon testimony included a CCSO Internal Affairs interrogation of Brown that continually cited the 15-minute policy and Brown’s failure to perform the checks.

Brown’s indictment in June for involuntary manslaughter and public records fraud shifted some of the criminal liability in Ajibade’s death to the CCSO third-party healthcare provider.

Asked specifically about blame-shifting Monday, a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman maintained the department handed over all files to the GBI. She did not have an explanation for the missing pages of the Corizon policy.

Reached for comment Monday, GBI’s Special Agent in Charge for Savannah’s District 5, Cathy Sapp, said her investigators will typically ask an agency under investigation for records, and will not use other tools like subpoenas or warrants if there is compliance.

The recourse for non-compliance would come from the District Attorney’s office, Sapp said.

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