Who pays the medical bills after inmate gets furlough?

PERKINS TWP. Discussions are brewing about granting critically injured inmate Timothy Thayer a furlo
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

PERKINS TWP.

Discussions are brewing about granting critically injured inmate Timothy Thayer a furlough, allowing him to temporarily leave jail -- which could change who will pay his medical bills.

Thayer, 45, is more responsive a day after he tried to commit suicide, according to Erie County Sheriff's officials.

He had been in jail since January for charges in an attempted shooting incident. He pleaded guilty to felonious assault last week in Erie County Common Pleas Court and agreed to serve seven years in prison, court records state.

After talking to his attorney about the plea Tuesday, Thayer hurled himself over a second-floor railing, causing substantial spinal damage, said Capt. Paul Sigsworth.

Thayer was taken to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo and was listed in critical condition Wednesday, he said.

"He is going to need pretty extensive medical care for some time," Sigsworth said.

As long as Thayer is in the jail's custody, county taxpayers will pay for his medical bills. But if Thayer is granted a furlough, it is up in the air who would pay the bills.

Although there have been discussions of a furlough grant, no filings have been made, said Judge Roger Binette, who is presiding over the case.

In the past inmates with serious medical conditions have been released on bond, said Sheriff Terry Lyons, adding that they paid their own bills.

"Our past experience has been that we've been successful to avoid those high costs," he said.

Lyons said he did not recall having an inmate issued a furlough, though.

"Hopefully it (the bill payer) wouldn't be the county," he said.

Assistant Erie County Prosecutor Gary Lickfelt said he does not recall a situation like this in his 28 years either.

"I can't say for certain who would be held responsible," he said.

Binette said furloughs have been issued in the past for circumstances like dentist and doctor appointments or to attend a funeral. A furlough can be granted sua sponte, meaning by a judge's decision alone, or with the input of the attorney and prosecutor.

In addition, Thayer's plea agreement can still be withdrawn if he files a motion to do so before sentencing, Binette said. So far no filings have been made.

"I was very cautious and very cautious in making sure he entered that plea knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily," Binette said of the day Thayer pleaded.

As for Thayer's agreement to serve seven years in prison, Binette said that too could vary at sentencing.

"That's strictly a recommendation made by both parties," he said. "The judge is not bound by that."