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Muskegon County Sheriff’s Deputies Plead to Willful Neglect of Duty in Death of Prisoner
April 20, 2023
LANSING - Four Muskegon County Sheriff’s Deputies were sentenced for their role in the death of Muskegon County jail inmate Paul Bulthouse, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced.
Muskegon Sheriff’s deputies Jeffrey Patterson, Crystal Greve, Jamal Lane, and David Vanderlaan each pled no contest to Willful Neglect of Duty and were immediately sentenced to 100 hours of community service, and a $1,000 fine.
“I remain committed to protecting all residents of the State of Michigan, including those in the custody of law enforcement,” Nessel said. “Every person deserves to be treated with care and dignity, and to have the sanctity of their life valued, and we are committed to ensuring that our laws and law enforcement officials reflect the highest standards.”
Each case before the Department of the Attorney General is unique and reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether a trial is the likeliest path to secure a conviction or if a plea arrangement provides the only pursuit of accountability likely to succeed. These sentences come after a lengthy preliminary examination, dozens of pretrial motions, a lack of cooperation from critical and necessary witnesses and adverse rulings regarding key pieces of evidence. Allowing a settlement of this matter in which the defendants accept responsibility ensures accountability for those responsible for the neglect of care to Bulthouse while also allowing for closure for his family.
Their actions occurred on April 4, 2019, when Bulthouse was being held in the Muskegon County jail on a probation violation. He was booked into the facility on March 22, 2019, and his health began deteriorating shortly thereafter. Bulthouse was on a suicide watch and was being monitored for drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms and mental health issues. During the night of April 3, 2019, and the very early morning of April 4, 2019, surveillance video captured Bulthouse suffering from approximately 18 seizures while locked in his solitary cell.
The lack of response from the four Sheriff’s deputies was also captured on the surveillance video. Throughout the evening, Deputies Patterson, Greve, Lane, and Vanderlaan can be observed conducting quick, in-person checks into Bulthouse’s cell, as well as observing his cell through the closed-circuit monitor. At no point did any of the deputies attempt to ensure medical care for the prisoner.
Around the time of the deputy shift change at 6:00 a.m., Bulthouse was discovered lying unclothed on the floor of his jail cell in a pool of his own urine. The discovery was made by a different Muskegon County deputy who had not been assigned to Bulthouse’s floor during the prisoner’s distress. Bulthouse’s approximate time of death is reported to have been around 5:30 a.m. on April 4, 2019.
Despite public statements in support of the deputies, the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office made several significant changes in response to the charges. Those include instituting new policies to provide for better care and custody of those held in the jail. Muskegon County also changed its medical service provider for the treatment of its inmates. Additionally, the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office now requires all deputies to wear body cameras and microphones, including those deputies working inside the jail, to ensure accountability and increase transparency.
Additionally, the Department of the Attorney General will be working with the legislature to:
1. Require jail correction staff to meet accreditation standards;
2. Strengthen consequences, including termination, for when jail correction staff do not meet or violate those standards; and,
3. Create a list of convictions that would prohibit a person from serving as jail correction staff.
“This is a tragic case that only highlights the need for legislative efforts when it comes to the care and custody of those individuals who are detained or incarcerated,” Nessel continued. “This was a horrible loss of life, that may have been avoided but for the inexcusable neglect of four deputies who serve roles of public service. We have a responsibility to increase the standards of service and care in this state’s corrections facilities and we intend to pursue that.”
Bulthouse’s family remains deeply troubled by the care he received while held in the Muskegon County Jail. The family has also expressed concern that the four deputies will remain in their positions with the Sheriff’s Office.