Sheriff apologizes to man left shackled, forgotten

January 6, 2011 3:13:26 PM PST
An Elgin man was handcuffed and left alone in the Kane County Courthouse overnight. Husan Smith was shackled in a small room and forgotten for 18 hours.

Smith is calling his ordeal the worst night of this life. He was placed in a conference and not a holding cell.

The Kane County sheriff has apologized.

The sheriff says this appears to be a case of simple human error. Smith was left alone in a room usually reserved for attorney-client meetings. He was supposed to only be there a few minutes.

"I don't like being in rooms with the door locked, I'll tell you that much," said Smith. "I've been sleeping with the bedroom door open lately."

After violating his probation for drug possession, Smith was sentenced last week to four days in the Kane County Jail, but before heading to a cell he was placed in a small room on the third floor of the courthouse.

"I was handcuffed behind my back," Smith said. "No food, no water, no access to a bathroom."

After four hours, Smith realized he had been forgotten.

Panic set in as he sat in his soiled clothes.

"At that point, I started screaming and kicking the door, trying to alert someone to my presence there," said Smith. "No one came. I just got depressed."

Smith's thoughts turned to a scene from the TV show 24 in which a prisoner escapes by setting off fire sprinklers.

"I was trying to rig that, so it would go off and maybe an alarm would go off," Smith said. "And I was afraid the room would fill up with water if no one came, and I'd drown."

Eventually someone did come, but not until the next morning, more than 18 hours after Smith entered the room.

"I apologized to Husan for the anguish that he had to go through," said Sheriff Patrick Perez, Kane County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff Perez has ordered an internal investigation, and already, plans are in the works to install additional surveillance cameras in that section of the courthouse.

"I can't go back and do it over," said Perez. "If I could, I would, but what we can do is take extreme measures to make sure that something like this never happens again."

Smith said he accepts the sheriff's apology.

Smith says he has not retained any legal counsel and just wants to put this all behind him. He has had trouble with the law in the past but says he's committed to forging a new path, which includes starting college classes later this month.

The sheriff met personally with Smith and his mother Thursday. They gave a statement as part of the internal investigation.