Sansone: once a well-respected up and coming lawyer
Joel Sansone was once a well-respected up and coming lawyer. His early career was interesting to follow, winning cases for deserving people, their
family members or surviving next of kin, and losing a high profile case involving a well-known public official convicted of corruption.
These days, it's hard not to wonder why Sansone's three front burner cases against Fayette County might contain only itty bit amounts of relevant truth or
some merit, but, overall, appear to be no more than trumped up or exaggerated accusations against some undeservingly accused.
In an almost sad respect, as a lawyer, one would thought that Sansone would have felt somehow obligated to steer two public employees to go back to
work and just be glad they still have jobs instead of sue -- i.e., , simply, you know, based entirely, just on and exclusively alone on all of those very real
public moments of awkward silences, when they know fully well that they came pathetically ill-prepared to public meetings or for business.
This last case of Sansone's to hit the media is one featured on WTAE TV news of a man whose new civil case has been in the works since earlier this
year. This is the kind of case lawyers have to dream about getting. Sansone should have been wise enough to be honest with the two employees, and
wise enough to have sent the county jail warden packing in search of another lawyer when he heard about this man suing the County, the city police and
his former personal care home owners/operators. Sansone could damn near own Fayette County, if he dissected the work of the county behavioral health
and jail, in respect to the man suing the County, the city police and his former personal care home owners/operators.
Nearly 70 months ago, "Community Mental Health Service Meltdown: 85 Possibly Missing," went online here, ranting the county behavioral health system
responsible for seemingly ignoring the existence of and the incarceration of a decompensating inmate waiting for the county to coordinate a pretty basis,
short-term inpatient psychiatric evaluation at Torrance State Hospital.
Sansone and the man, thought to be living in a supervised Dom or personal care home these days, however, should realistically acknowledge that
Sansone failed the man already, before the case proceeds. The validity or justification of the man's case to proceed would soar through the roof, if the
case is pointed where it truly deserves to be.
SUE COUNTY BEHAVIORAL HEALTH AND THE JAIL...
The county behavioral health department, or representatives of the county acting as liaison to the criminal courts, should be completely ashamed that it,
as an entity, boldly ignored two court orders in three years from unamused judges, to get on it and schedule the inpatient psychiatric evaluation.
That really seems to be the only piece of the man's suit deserving to be permitted to advance to court.
Mental health staff knew from the time of the man's incarceration at the county jail that he needed transferred to Torrance State Hospital. He was deemed
to be unfit for prosecution and could not be tried. He was supposed to have been transferred to the state psych unit as early as 2007, when he was first
said to be unfit to appear and be tried in court.
Prior to the man's confession that he pushed a fellow personal care home resident from a porch to his death, it is unknown whether the man received
outpatient psychiatric medication following at a community clinic or private practice. It's a good guess that he probably did.
In the time before he confessed to pushing his personal care home peer from the personal care home porch, did anyone caring for the man or involved in
his daily routine notice an increase in agitation or anger? Probably not.
Prior to the man's confession that he was responsible for the man's fall from the porch, perhaps an outpatient psychiatric mediation source could rightfully
accept some responsibility, but only if the man were seen for visits and been agitated or expressing harmful thoughts and ignored. We have not heard
this to be the case, and an outpatient source is not named in the man's suit against the County, the city police and the man's former personal care home
After he was involved in the criminal justice system and court process, he was determined by the courts to be too unstable or unfit to be tried for the
personal care home peer's death. He went to the county jail in wait of that pretty basic, short-term inpatient psychiatric evaluation at Torrance State
Hospital and still was waiting for three years when his story was mentioned briefly in the newspaper in 2012. He was said to have been, at that time,
incarcerated for five years, waiting for a transfer to Torrance State Hospital.
Much is being said these days about the confession that the man signed years ago in the death of his personal care home peer. Instead, this column
wonders how someone so unfit to stand trial can be his own spokesman or history informant today, speaking matter of factly, not hypothetically, as his
insights really are hypothetical, in the case that he was too unstable to be prosecuted for a decade of waiting for stability to happen.
Exactly why the city police is being sued, too, makes no sense. The man suing the County, the city police and his former personal care home
owners/operators was thought to be telling the truth when he confessed to pushing his personal care home peer from a personal care home porch. The
peer died a month after the fall. One would think that no secret is safe in a personal care home and that the other residents, or at least some of them,
would have got word out if the man arrested did not push the other man from the porch.
That said, yes, quickly, P-CoRP, offer a very deserving sum and cut a check for a three-to-five-year wait. No, wait, lets be perfectly fair to the county
behavioral health system. The responsibility of that department, in all fairness, probably is not a full three-year period, but a more reasonable 34-month
P-CoRP should quickly make most of this case against departments paid with public funds go away, or litigate for dismissal any part of the case involving
county or defendants not appointed to coordinate a pretty basic, short-term inpatient psychiatric evaluation at Torrance State Hospital.
Sansone's case, in other words, might be more deserving of a financial judgement against the County, however, if the big guns were pointed at:
- County Behavioral Health
- County Jail Administration
Administrators and department heads of the Fayette County Behavioral Health and any public paid behavioral and emotional supported department heads
paid with public funds for whatever dollar judgement the courts would figures that 34 months of the man's time was worth.
Tack on to P-CoRP's settlement check a possible number of dollars in award for emotional stress. He wasn't just waiting an hour for a late public funded
bus to take him shopping. He was waiting in jail and thought by the courts being readied for an inpatient psychiatric evaluation, or removal from the county
jail for relatively short-term transfer and admission for clinical prognosis and opinion from clinical hospital psychiatrists as to when, or whether if, the man
accused of causing the death of a personal care home peer will or could ever be ready to face criminal prosecution in the courts for that death.
The court's two ignored judge orders over three years to coordinate the inmate's inpatient psychiatric evaluation at
Torrance State Hospital is inexcusable. If these public employees ignoring the court orders were ordinary citizens,
how unlikely would ignored court orders be allowed to be this ignored without prosecution?
Why were court orders on two occasions in three years ignored to get the man into the inpatient state psychiatric unit to provide the criminal county courts
badly needed recommendations and medical opinion about what kind of treatment might be needed for the man to become fit to stand trial? This is a
procedure or special admission that takes less than one month to coordinate.
That all said, the county jail administration should be named specifically as well as the county behavioral health department in this suit if no
documentation exists that jail administration advocated for the prisoner to be transferred to Torrance.
Sansone so sadly failed the man suing the County and his former personal care home owners/operators for not referring this case and client to another
attorney who does not represent the county jail warden in a different case.
Nonetheless, C-CoRP should ready it's best pen to quickly write a check to settle for whatever time period the man remained in the county jail, unless
there is documentation (i.e., prison board meeting minutes, correspondences/memos/emails among county jail and administration) that jail officials
advocated up the chain of command, to the mental health or behavioral health courts, to the county prison board, to the media... to advocate that the
inmate deemed unfit to be tried be transferred to Torrance for the court ordered inpatient psychiatric evaluation.
The courts needed an inpatient psychiatric evaluation report for a better idea of a prognosis or opinion on when or if the man could or should be brought
Only documentation from county jail administration, reports or letters, cards and letters to or from county jail officials, county behavioral health staff and
county officials, documenting that jail administration staff or jail medical staff often did advocate for this man to leave the jail for an inpatient evaluation at
Torrance State Hospital would or should exempt the jail doctors or county jail administrators from being named in the man's suit.
Oh, but wait! The county jail, per se, is not specifically named in the man's suit. Nope, just the general, vague defendant known as Fayette County. Why
isn't the jail administration staff or the county jail doctor named specifically? The jail had possession of the man since his arrest, after all.
Jail staff had the day to day management and care of the man since his arrest for years. Jail staff should have been vocal about this inmate from the time
that he was initially incarcerated, but definitely in the years that followed.
Excluding the one interview of quotes from the warden to the Trib about four years ago, when the judge again ordered an inpatient eval at Torrance,
when else did the warden or any jail official ask the county in public meetings or written correspondences to help expedite the inpatient psychiatric
evaluation for the man?
SANSONE DIDN'T SEE THE CONFLICT OF REPRESENTING THE COUNTY JAIL
WARDEN IN A DIFFERENT CIVIL SUIT AND REPRESENTING THE MAN SUING THE
COUNTY, THE CITY POLICE AND HIS FORMER PERSONAL CARE HOME
Sansone was once a well-respected up and coming lawyer. When he was first approached about this particular lawsuit or case, should Sansone not have
declared a conflict of interest and referred this man seeking damages against the County, the city police and his former personal care home
owners/operators to another lawyer?
Sansone failed this man suing the County and his former personal care home owners/operators by not recommending that the crux of the man's suit be
targeted against the county jail administration staff for failing to advocate to the courts, the county behavioral health department and the prison board for
this man to get his transfer to an inpatient psychiatric evaluation at Torrance State Hospital.
He was physically in the jail. Jail staff should have been the most vocal advocating for the man to have the inpatient psychiatric evaluation.
But how could Sansone recommend to the man that they proceed against the County without naming specifically the county behavioral health department
that ignored two county court orders and took over five years to schedule a pretty basic, short-term inpatient psychiatric evaluation at Torrance State
Hospital and without recommending that the county jail also be named specifically? The courts, too, contributed to the mess, by not jailing public officials
or staff who ignored two court orders in three years and for playing its part in not monitoring the progress of the (especially the ignored second) second of
two court orders.
The jail administrators and county behavioral health departments, for the most part, failed this man. Both should be held accountable.
Sansone, meanwhile, of course, also represents the county jail warden in his civil case against the County. This statement of fact makes most sane
people wonder why Sansone didn't refer the man suing the County and his former personal care home owners/operators to another lawyer who does not
represent the county jail warden in a different law suit. Sansone couldn't say that the warden is the salt of the earth in the suit against the County and
then name the warden as a negligent leader as he would have had to have done, if the jail were named in the man's lawsuit. Which it, conveniently, is not
named specifically, per se.
Since Sansone does represent the county jail warden in a different civil suit, one has to wonder how could
Sansone paint the warden invisible in this other suit of the man who wants repaid for 10 years of his life that
he was incarcerated in the county jail without a psychiatric evaluation.
Sansone, in this recently announced case, also fails the man suing the County and his former personal care home owners/operators, in another important
respect. The man was portrayed in the recently aired news segment on WTAE television as having no family. Untrue.
From the 1990s, when the man left his family's home for a personal care home, through the time of his arrest, his uncle was involved in his life to some
In 2012, when a lawyer at the county's public defender's office filed motions to get the man released from jail, the man's uncle filed for a Protection From
Abuse (PFA) Order, afraid for his safety and the safety of his family.
The man was not released just yet from the county jail then, but shortly thereafter, was released to a locked down facility, then housed on Tippie Cannoe
Road, run by Chestnut Ridge Counseling Services, in partnership with Westmoreland County. This lock down facility was in relatively close proximity to
the uncle's home.
It is noted that the man suing the County for keeping him incarcerated without a psychiatric evaluation is not suing:
- any outpatient doctor he may have had prior to his personal care home peer falling from a personal care home outside wall
- the jail, per se
- county behavioral/mental health department. per se
- private non-profit agency that operates the Long Term Structured Residence, formerly in Tippie Canoe area of Grindstone
When the story aired on television news last week, most likely a few hundred former class mates viewing instantly recognized the man suing the County
and his former personal care home owners/operators and knew that he most definitely does has family. Family which, by choice, lost contact with the man
as he progressed through the courts.
Sansone erred for allowing that kind of untruthful comment on television news that make eyes roll and heads shake. Sansone's case in support of the
man being portrayed as a gentle, compliant man who loves to listen to music, seems compromised by the misinformation on television.
People aren't stupid.
Many learned of the PFA, which the uncle of the man now suing the County placed when someone from the public defender's office years ago petitioned
the courts for the man's release from the county jail. At that time, he had waited five years for a transfer to Torrance State Hospital for an inpatient
psychiatric evaluation and prognosis report for the courts. His family must have been afraid if the attorney had been successful (but was not) in getting the
case dismissed to have filed the PFA.
This is what is most disappointing of all, though, about Sansone's choice to continue to represent the man who is suing the County and his former
personal care home owners/operators, while he also represents the county jail warden in a different civil suit against the County.
By not referring the man to another lawyer who does not represent the county jail warden, Sansone limits the impact that the man's ultimate case will
have and possible dollar settlement amount by not going after the county jail administrative staff.
Sansone's case on paper in support of the man suing the County and his former personal care home owners/operators almost automatically protects
Sansone's civil case for the county jail warden against the County.
County jail staff and county jail medical staff should have been talking about this man forgotten for five years for a psychiatric evaluation at Torrance
every time their mouths opened in public meetings.
Sansone might have said something like that in the man's civil case if he didn't also represent the county jail warden in a different civil case against the
County. (1 Nov 16)
* The LTSR facility has moved from Tippie Cannoe Road, Redstone Township, to Connellsville, PA. at this time.