In 2005, after being charged with sexual assault on a child and awaiting trial at the Jefferson County Detention Facility, Anthony Sims was so worried about his safety in prison that he asked, and was granted, to be housed in protective custody.
What Sims did not know, according to a lawsuit filed this week in the United States District Court of Colorado, was that nearby, just beyond a shared shower with faulty locks, a violent white supremacist Shawn Shields was being held. Shields had been transferred from the “Supermax” prison and was awaiting charges for assault on a cellmate.
Kathie Sims, Anthony’s mother, claims in the civil suit that because of the access provided by the broken shower locks, Shields was able to enter Sims’ cell and strangle him with a tube sock.
Sims’ death had been ruled a suicide by the Jefferson County Coroner and indeed Kathie was told there was nothing to suggest his death was a homicide. Yet as the Complaint points out, Sims had been badly beaten and his head was in a pool of blood.
Nearly 3 years after her son’s death, Kathie was contacted by an FBI agent whose “ investigation had determined that Anthony had not committed suicide, but had been murdered by a fellow inmate.”
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Estate of Anthony Sims, is directed against the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners and sheriffs for failing to protect Sims while he was in their protective custody. The attorney for the plaintiff, David Lane, has also been in the news lately as the defense attorney for controversial professor Ward Churchill. ..Source.. by Glorianne Scott
Jeffco DA probing inmate's '05 death
The Jefferson County district attorney is investigating the death four years ago of a child-sexual-assault suspect in the county jail — a death initially ruled a suicide.
The investigation was prompted by a statement made by a prison inmate, who told the FBI that he killed Anthony Sims after manipulating a shared door between their cells that was supposed to be locked.
On Nov. 1, 2005, 20-year-old Sims was found with a tube sock tied around his neck, his body slumped face down over his cell bed with his legs on the floor.
The right side of his face was bruised and swollen.
After an investigation by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, the county coroner ruled Sims' death a suicide.
Then, in 2008, inmate Shawn Shields, 36, who is serving time in state prison on a variety of felony offenses until October 2028, told an FBI agent that he had killed Sims, after figuring out how to open a locked door between their cells.
Shields has yet to serve a pending 10-year federal sentence for beating another inmate on May 23, 2005, while in a holding cell at the U.S. District Court in Denver. The victim was beaten because he was a witness testifying against another inmate in a federal court case, records show.
An FBI agent notified Sims' mother, Kathie, of Shields' statement. On Wednesday, she filed suit against the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, Sheriff Ted Mink and an unnamed deputy.
The lawsuit says Jefferson County failed to protect Sims from Shields, an inmate with a record of violence on other prisoners, described as a high-level member of a white supremacist prison gang.
Jefferson County sheriff's spokeswoman Jacki Kelley and County Attorney Writer Mott said Thursday that Shields' claims were investigated.
"We don't believe the story and don't believe the inmate was killed at the hands of another inmate at our facility," Kelley said. "The doors were tested, and we could not replicate or duplicate what this inmate said occurred."
Shields is not charged with homicide. Sims' death remains classified as a suicide in Jefferson County.
But while the Sheriff's Office has discounted Shields' claims, there is an open investigation into Sims' death by the district attorney.
Pam Russell, spokeswoman for the district attorney, acknowledged the probe but said she could not elaborate.
David Lane, attorney for Kathie Sims, said more investigation is clearly needed.
"He beat himself to a pulp before he tied a sock around his neck and strangled himself to death? It's ridiculous," Lane said.
The lawsuit says Shields and other inmates knew how to manipulate the doors in the shared shower between the administrative segregation unit, where Shields was housed, and the protective-custody unit, where Sims was held. ..Source.. by Felisa Cardona