Decision On Broome Jail COVID-19 Lawsuit Could Come Soon

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CORNING, NY (WSKG) – A ruling could come down this week in a lawsuit between Broome County jail inmates and Broome County Sheriff David Harder.

Protestors holding posters representing grave stones of Broome County Jail inmates who have died over the last several years. (Gabe Altieri/WSKG)

The lawsuit, filed with the New York State Supreme Court in Broome County, is centered around the release of inmates who are alleged to be at high risk of COVID-19. It argues for the release of two inmates who claim they are highly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.

According to court filings, Sean Post is a 37-year-old with Lyme Disease and hypertension. He violated parole on an order of protection and is unable to post bail. Roderick Zienneker is a 61-year-old with high blood pressure and liver disease. He is due for release May 4 after time served for petty larceny.

“People who are in on minor crimes or petty parole violations or probation violations should not be incarcerated at this time, period,” explained Josh Cotter, who’s with Legal Services of Central New York. “Even people that are close to their release dates. What’s the point of putting someone at risk for an extra three weeks of being incarcerated?”

The lawsuit was initially filed on April 6 with five petitioners.

William Shaffer, a 49-year-old with asthma and atrial fibrillation, was released for time served on April 8. 60-year-old, David Shamberger had pneumonia prior to his incarceration and was released by consent of the Broome County District Attorney on April 13.

A third petitioner, Justin Smallze, who is a 36-year-old with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), tested positive for COVID-19 while he awaited a ruling. He will remain inside the jail.

Sheriff David Harder said that the courts determine who to release and when.