For the past several weeks, Cheryl Weimar has been lying in a hospital bed, newly quadriplegic, after being beaten by four guards at Lowell Correctional Institution.
Now, the Florida Department of Corrections may be trying to dodge the costs of her medical care by releasing her from their custody, according to a petition from her lawyers — who are calling the move “gutless.”
On Tuesday, Weimar’s lawyer, Ryan Andrews, filed a lawsuit seeking to force prison administrators to comply with public records requests. He still has not been told the names of the officers who attacked Weimar, he said.
But the lawsuit also says FDC representatives intimidated and coerced Weimar into signing documents she didn’t understand, and signing over her disability benefits. Andrews said she was approached by seven people who made her cry and told her that only they cared about her. She then signed something she didn’t understand and was not given a copy, he said.
An FDC spokeswoman declined to comment on Andrews’ claims, saying the agency does not discuss ongoing litigation.
“Everything about the way [FDC] has acted since the moment this lady has been injured is gutless,” Andrews said.
On Aug. 21, Weimar, who has mental illnesses and a hip problem, told officers she couldn’t clean a toilet, as requested, because of her hip pain. The guards slammed her on the concrete floor and broke her neck. They then dragged her out of the view of cameras and continued to beat her, according to a federal lawsuit.
Weimar is currently scheduled to be released in 2021. While she’s still in the department’s custody, it pays for her medical care, which the lawsuit says she did not need until she was beaten “within an inch of her life.” If released, the department would only cover half of the costs and have Medicare take care of the rest, Andrews said.
Conditional Medical Release was passed in 1992 for inmates who are “terminally ill” or “permanently incapacitated.” Inmates recommended by the department are sent to the Commission on Offender Review, which decides whether to grant the release or not. Over three years, the commission has granted 66 out of 124 recommended inmate releases, according to a 2018 report.
Reggie Garcia, a Tallahassee lawyer who specializes in clemency and parole, and has consulted with Andrews’ law firm on the Weimar case, said often families want their loved ones released if they are sick. However, he said, if the department is trying to release Weimar just to save money — potentially millions of dollars — that’s a problem.
“If [FDC] is trying to release her so they don’t have to pay her medical bills, that’s not what this law is for,” he said.