Prosecutors: No criminal conduct in Levert death

By | September 17, 2008 at 2:06 AM

Prosecutors determined Tuesday that there was no criminal conduct involved in the March death of R&B singer Sean Levert, who was in jail when he became ill.

Levert, a member of the 1980s R&B trio LeVert and son of lead O’Jays singer Eddie Levert, died March 30 after he was taken from the Cuyahoga County jail to a hospital.

Prosecutor Bill Mason ruled out criminal conduct after his office reviewed an internal investigation conducted by the sheriff’s department.

The coroner previously ruled that the 39-year-old Levert died from complications of sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease.

Levert’s widow, Angela Lowe, filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit in June accusing county jail officials of neglecting his medical needs.

Dennis Niermann, who represents Lowe and Levert’s estate, said he wasn’t surprised that Mason found no wrongdoing by the sheriff’s department, which his office represents.

“It is a finding of no criminal wrongdoing and the lawsuit we have filed focuses on civil wrongdoings … one has absolutely nothing to do with another,” Niermann said.

The prosecutor’s office released 162 pages of documents on Tuesday, including interviews with jail officials and a 3-minute video of Levert being placed in a restraint chair after he pounded on his cell walls and floor. He died about an hour later.

He had been placed in the jail’s psychiatric unit earlier that day after stating that his son fell into a pool outside his cell window.

In the video, Levert is seen repeatedly shouting “no, no” and “mommy, mommy” as several jail officers tie him to the restraint chair.

County Coroner Frank Miller, who previously ruled out foul play or trauma, said Levert also suffered from other conditions, including heart disease, high blood sugar and withdrawal from Xanax.

The lawsuit contends that Levert suffered from severe anxiety and that he brought his prescription for the anti-anxiety drug to jail but was not given the medication. He had just started a 22-month sentence for failure to pay child support.

The lawsuit accuses the sheriff’s department of failing to give Levert an adequate nursing assessment or mental health assessment and of failing to notify the jail pharmacy of his need for medication.

Investigators interviewed Christine Dubber, manager of health care services for the county jail, who said inmates are not allowed to take Xanax unless they are evaluated by a jail psychiatrist. She said Levert was scheduled to see one on April 8.

“Due to the volume of inmates and the level of severity, the schedule is based on need,” she stated.

Levert’s vitals were normal when he was given his initial health assessment on March 25, a day after he entered the jail, Dubber said.

Levert and his brother Gerald formed LeVert in the 1980s with childhood friend Marc Gordon. Their hits included “Baby I’m Ready,” “(Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind” and “Casanova.”

His brother died in 2006 at age 40 of an accidental mix of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Sean Levert, who was trying to start the group LeVert again, had pleaded guilty in March to six counts of failure to pay $89,025 in support to children aged 11, 15 and 17.

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