A trial is underway to determine if the county is liable for the death of an inmate at the Gage County Detention Center.
A two-day bench trial began Thursday in Gage County District Court before Judge Julie Smith.
Chad Gesin hanged himself in a jail cell after he was arrested for domestic assault and third degree assault on July 4, 2013. In November 2013, a grand jury found there was no criminal conduct in his death.
The suit, seeking $1 million, was initially filed by Rhonda Reiber, administrator of the estate of Chad Gesin, in Gage County District Court in 2015. It was removed to federal court later that year and eventually remanded back to Gage County District Court.
Lyle Koenig, who represents Reiber in the case, said the county failed to properly care for Gesin while he was in custody and should have placed him on suicide watch.
“It’s our position that under Nebraska law, Gage County and the sheriff have a legal duty to protect Chad Gesin when in their custody,” he said. “…We think because there was ample evidence Chad Gesin was suicidal on July 4, 2013 after he was arrested at around 5 o’clock that afternoon and taken into custody, the Gage County Sheriff’s Department should have done certain things.”
The lawsuit alleges negligence by jail staff contributed to Gesin’s suicide while housed in the jail.
According to the claim, Gesin had prior interactions with the Sheriff’s Department, including a 2011 incident in which he stabbed himself several times and was taken to an emergency room by the department.
The suit claims the department was aware Gesin had suicidal tendencies and had attempted suicide in the past. It also claims Gesin’s girlfriend went to the jail after his arrest to pick up his cell phone, at which point she allegedly told staff he was suicidal.
The suit alleges jail staff was negligent and failed to supervise Gesin, and lacked properly-trained employees or adequate staffing.
Vincent Valentino, who represents Gage County and Sheriff Millard Gustafson, who are named as defendants in the case, said authorities were not aware Gesin was suicidal, and added that messages Gesin sent regarding suicide were referencing a song and that there was no way authorities could have known he was suicidal.
“The alleged statements of Mr. Gesin… are text messages,” he said during open arguments Thursday. And they’re threatening text messages to her with innuendo to some song he was apparently referencing that had a murder-suicide theme.”
Gesin was arrested in downtown Beatrice after police saw him and a woman arguing.
Gesin then allegedly walked to another vehicle and began punching a man through the window. A State Patrol trooper told Gesin to stop and handcuffed him.
The woman told the trooper she was leaving Gesin because of a domestic assault that occurred earlier in the afternoon at the Casey's General Store on South Sixth Street, where Gesin allegedly grabbed her by the neck, court records state.
Gesin had also sent her text messages earlier that indicated he intended to harm himself.
The 30-year-old was taken to the jail at about 5:15 p.m. and was discovered hanging in his cell less than two hours later.
Gesin died five days later at BryanHealth West in Lincoln.