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Ex-jailer who took plea deal in connection with 2018 inmate death sentenced to jail time

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Posted at 8:25 AM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-14 18:55:57-04

CLEVELAND — A former Cuyahoga County jailer who took a plea deal for his role in the 2018 death of an inmate at the Cuyahoga County Jail was sentenced to jail time on Wednesday.

Former jailer Martin Devring was seen in a video in August 2018 kicking a mat where inmate Joseph Arquillo was dying of a drug overdose. Devring was later fired in December of that year after he failed to conduct required checks of inmates and falsified a log book the day of the Arquillo’s death.

In February, Devring pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty and tampering with records.

"The defendant had a duty to act and provide medical attention to those in the jail that needed it," said Assistant Ohio Attorney General Dan Kasaris. "He violated that duty."

Arquillo's sister and son wiped away tears in court as prosecutors played video of Arquillo crumbled and in need of help inside the jail.

"It was really gut-wrenching, it was horrifying," said Arquillo's sister, Natalie Lukaszewicz. "And it was pretty unbelievable that anyone could watch that or be a part of that scene and not take action."

In court, Devring's attorney pointed to systemic problems inside the overcrowded, under-staffed jail at the time.

"There have been 10 deaths in the county jail in the last few years and there's a lot of responsibility that's spread around," said attorney Roger Synenberg. "Those are not the words of myself. Those are the words of the United States Marshals in their report, the state of Ohio in their report, and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department in their report."

Judge Cassandra Collier-Williams sentence Devring to 30 days in jail for each charge but ordered him to serve the time concurrently.

Devring apologized to the court and Arquillo's family.

"I take full responsibility for my actions. I apologize to everyone," he said.

Arquillo's son Devring's actions which he called "cruel" and "inhumane" deprived his father of the chance to turn his life around.

"That opportunity was cruelly and callously and forever taken away from me," said Joe Arquillo. "There's no going back. Death is forever. I will never see him again, never have a chance to say I forgive him. Never have peace. Never be at peace."

The judge said she felt jail time was appropriate for this case.

"This is a situation that your omission to act became a big deal because, had you done what you were supposed to do, or what you were hired to do, then just perhaps, perhaps this man's life would not have ended," Collier-Williams said.

She continued, "I do know is that I think that someone in your position, that was hired to be a kind of gatekeeper of the people in our jails...I think that you have that responsibility to make sure that your job is done, whatever that job is that you're being hired to do, that you do that job and you do it well for the citizens of Cuyahoga County."

The incident was captured on jail security cameras.

In the video, Arquillo appeared wobbly on his feet at times. Internal documents obtained by 5 On Your Side Investigators described Arquillo as "intoxicated" earlier that morning. Arquillo then went for medical attention. When he returned to the area where his mat was on the floor, the 47-year-old inmate appeared to bend awkwardly. Arquillo then appeared to grab his head before curling up in a corner near his bunk.

According to the video, nearly an hour passed before another inmate came over and appeared to say something to Arquillo. The inmate then walked away.

Five minutes later, the recording shows Corrections Officer Martin Devring approach Arquillo, kick the mat next to where Arquillo was curled up, and then walk away. According to disciplinary records, Devring claimed Arquillo mumbled "not interested" when the jailer asked him about eating lunch.

One inmate appears to signal that Arquillo is dead.

Officers and paramedics spent about 20 minutes working to revive Arquillo, but the inmate died shortly after arriving at the hospital. The medical examiner ruled Arquillo died of a drug overdose.

The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department said Devring will serve his sentence at another county jail.

RELATED: Video shows inmate's final hours

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