Lawsuit claims inmates at Bexar County jail illegally held for weeks, months after posting bail

The plaintiff, who said he was held for three days after making bail, is asking that his suit be certified as a class action.

click to enlarge A deputy at the Bexar County Jail checks in on inmates using the facility's digital system. - Courtesy of Bexar County Sheriff's Office
Courtesy of Bexar County Sheriff's Office
A deputy at the Bexar County Jail checks in on inmates using the facility's digital system.
A lawsuit filed by a former Bexar County jail inmate alleges that he and others were illegally held in custody for weeks — sometimes months — after posting bail.

Michael A. Miller filed the suit last week in federal court in San Antonio, arguing that he was wrongfully held in Bexar County's lockup for three days after posting a $3,500 bond on an arrest for unspecified charges last October.

The Bexar County Sheriff's Office (BCSO), which operates the jail, had no immediate comment on the legal proceeding.

The petition, filed by San Antonio attorney Abasi Major, also maintains that Miller isn't the first inmate to be wrongfully held by BCSO for an extended period. The suit, which asks for unspecified damages, also seeks to be certified as a class action.

"Every day, friends, family members, and bail bondsmen post bonds for presumptively innocent persons who are in Bexar County jail," according to the filing. "And every day, those defendants wait hours — sometimes days — before they are actually released from custody despite having their bail posted and no justification for their prolonged detention existing."

The lawsuit cites the case of Cody Demond Flenoury, an incident also chronicled by Texas Public Radio, as an example of an inmate facing additional time behind bars after he should have been released.

Flenoury was jailed after reaching a plea deal on a case in which he was accused of stealing food items and punching a shopkeeper, according to the suit. However, he wrongfully spent an additional five months in jail after his release paperwork was filed, according to allegations in the petition.

Following Flenoury's detainment and subsequent media coverage, BCSO and Bexar County hired two outside consulting firms to evaluate why there had been a delay in the release of some inmates.

One of the audits, completed by a firm called Detain Inc., primarily blamed BCSO's high turnover rate, the result of lower wages compared to other sheriff's offices across the state, for the problems, according to a statement from the Deputy Sheriffs Association of Bexar County.

However, the new lawsuit puts the blame elsewhere. The petition cites the jail's so-called "Batch Release System" as the primary reason why Miller, Flenoury and others languished in the jail past their release dates.

When an inmate posts bond and is cleared for release, the sheriff's office will wait until there's a "batch" — or a large group — of inmates who can be released at the same time, according to the suit.

"This can force a detainee who has already posted bail to wait several hours until there are enough other detainees who have posted bails to be released at once," the filing alleges.

Miller's suit also argues that the sheriff's office knew as far back as 2017 that the jail had problems with inmates being released on time.

"Despite the county's pattern of over detention, [Bexar County Sheriff] Javier Salazar has deliberately failed to act or implement policies to address defendant's repeated over detention of presumptively innocent detainees," the lawsuit said.

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Michael Karlis

Michael Karlis is a Staff Writer at the San Antonio Current. He is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., whose work has been featured in Salon, Alternet, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Orlando Weekly, NewsBreak, 420 Magazine and Mexico Travel Today. He reports primarily on breaking news, politics...

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