WESTMINSTER, Md. – A grand jury indicted six former staff members at a school for juvenile offenders on charges of reckless endangerment in the death of a 17-year-old student, officials announced Tuesday.
Isaiah Simmons died Jan. 23 while being restrained by staff at Bowling Brook Preparatory School.
State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes said the charges stemmed from a 41-minute period during which Simmons was unresponsive but staff at didn't call 911.
"They thought he was faking," Barnes said.
Medical examiners ruled his death a homicide, and the FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the case. The school has since closed.
The grand jury declined to indict the six employees on the more serious charge of involuntary manslaughter. Steven Heisler, an attorney for Simmons' family, said he disagreed with that decision and that he has asked Barnes to file manslaughter charges against the six employees.
The six named in the indictment are Michael P. Corradi of Middletown, Pa.; Dennis Harding of Baltimore; Brian G. Kanavy of Mechanicsburg; Jason W. Robinson of Westminster; Shadi Sabbagh of Keymar; and Mark R. Sainato of Keymar. Barnes did not release names for any attorneys representing the men.
If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, each could face a maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Bowling Brook administrator Brian Hayden said the school, a long-standing non-profit group, fully supports its former employees.
"Hopefully, the truth will bear out through the criminal proceedings and these gentlemen will be found innocent of all charges," he said in the statement.
Bowling Brook was under contract with the state of Maryland to educate boys in trouble with the law. Youths at the residential school, including some from Pennsylvania, were relocated to other schools after it closed.
The Maryland Department of Juvenile Services placed Simmons at the school following a 2006 conviction for robbery with a deadly weapon.
Simmons' death prompted the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services to reform its crisis intervention policies.
Staff at state-owned and private juvenile facilities have been advised that youths should only be restrained if there is an immediate risk of harm, that restraints should last a maximum of 30 minutes, in 15-minute intervals, and that they must be videotaped. Simmons was restrained over a period of several hours.
Medical staff also will have to be consulted in the event of a restraint that lasts 15 minutes, Donald DeVore, Maryland's secretary of juvenile services, said Tuesday.
"These are things that, based on my experience, if they had been in place at the time that Isaiah died, might have saved his life," DeVore said.
DeVore also said that he would not allow staff to use compliance techniques that caused pain.
"There are methods for juveniles that are safe methods of dealing with kids that don't cause pain," he said.