A man who was driving across country in 2005 and found himself thrown in a New Mexico jail for DWI and then spend nearly two years in solitary confinement, has won $15.5 million in one of the largest prisoner civil rights awards in U.S. history.
Stephen Slevin, 59, was depressed in 2005 when he decided to drive across the country, with no particular goal or destination in mind, his lawyer Matt Coyte told ABCNews.com. After being pulled over in Dona Ana County, N.M., on Aug. 24 2005, Slevin was arrested on aggravated DWI charges, and for driving a vehicle that he did not own. He was brought into the Dona Ana County Detention Center.
From there, his long nightmare began.
"To find out what happened was difficult," Coyte said. "His mental health was so compromised from his time in jail, he had very little memory of his stay there."
By piecing together documents and records available from the lockup, Coyte said he discovered that after his arrest, Slevin was soon placed in padded cell in the jail's floor, naked with only a suicide smock on, as what Coyte believes was a form of detoxification.
The cell was like a "horrific version of a drunk tank," Coyte said.
Slevin then went into medical observation for a few weeks. He was placed in an observation cell with its own shower, toilet and a window so he could be observed. From there they transferred him to solitary confinement, where he would spend the next 22 months.