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Suit filed over death at Perkins

Beth Moszkowicz//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer//October 31, 2012

Suit filed over death at Perkins

By Beth Moszkowicz

//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

//October 31, 2012

Almost a year to the day after Rogelio Mondragon was fatally assaulted at a maximum-security state psychiatric hospital, the personal representative of his estate has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against his accused killer.

Mondragon was one of three people who died at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup over the course of one year. He was killed on Oct. 27, 2011, allegedly by Andre Mayo.

Both men were patients at Perkins, which is operated by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to evaluate and treat suspected felons who, because of mental health issues, may not be competent to stand trial or have been found not criminally responsible for their offenses.

Mondragon was remanded to the hospital after a judge determined that he was not competent to stand trial on charges of second-degree rape.

The lawsuit, a survival action based on the assault and battery Mondragon suffered before his death, seeks $15 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages from Mayo.

According to the complaint, Mayo walked into Mondragon’s cell and threatened him with “serious, imminent, bodily harm,” and then made good on his threats.

Hospital staff found Mondragon unresponsive on the floor of his room and he could not be revived. “He was pronounced dead at the scene in his hospital cell,” the complaint says.

Police said video showed Mayo going into Mondragon’s room, twice, while Mondragon was otherwise alone. Police also said evidence on Mondragon’s hands and face suggested that he may have been in a fight.

Mayo was charged with first-degree murder, but in April a judge deemed him not competent to stand trial.

The civil lawsuit, which was filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court Oct. 26, does not name the hospital as a defendant.

However, it alleges that “proper risk and detention unit classification and ongoing monitoring of patients at [the hospital] was reportedly inadequate.”

It also alleges that there was inadequate patient and staff security, and that Mayo had “an extensive history of criminal conduct, including a history of violent conduct towards others, and that he was a person with dangerous tendencies.”

Paul R. Rivera, an attorney in Rockville, filed the suit on behalf of S. Ricardo Narvaiz, a Silver Spring lawyer who is the personal representative of Mondragon’s estate. Rivera and Narvaiz did not return calls for comment.

Dr. David S. Helsel, who took over as the chief executive officer at Perkins a month after Mondragon’s death, said no psychiatric institution can ever be completely safe. He noted, though, that 93 new staff hires were filled this past summer, and that this has resulted in additional opportunities for training and additional safety.

Jeffrey Pittman, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees of Maryland, which represents 323 staff members at the hospital, agreed that employee morale has improved with the additional staff.

“The staffing and security seems much better,” Pittman said.

Helsel said that, in addition to an electronic monitoring system, a hall monitor now continually walks and checks every room. He said the hospital has also increased the amount of group, individual and art therapies that it provides to patients.

However, Sarah Rhine, an attorney at the Maryland Disability Law Center, said that while her organization has seen some progress by staff and the CEO toward a change in culture, it continues to see issues with patient neglect and abuse and rights violations.

“Steps have been taken, but there is still a way to go,” she said.



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