Ex-Llano County jailer tied to inmate death sues county for attorney’s fees

FROM STAFF REPORTS

LLANO — Attorneys for an ex-jailer who pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges in connection with an in-custody death at the Llano County Jail have filed a lawsuit to recover legal fees in resolved criminal and civil cases against their client.

Private defense attorney Nina Willis represented ex-Llano County jailer Scottie Bryan Scoggins in civil and criminal proceedings in the death of Shawn Appell at the Llano County Jail in 2011.

Willis, on behalf of the Law Office of Nina Willis and David K. Sergi & Associates, recently filed a petition that was received by Llano County Judge Wayne Brascom on March 17.

The lawsuit does not offer a specific dollar figure, but Willis said her services for Scoggins and civil services for the San Marcos-based law firm might total in the tens of thousands of dollars.

“He was acting as an employee for a local government agency, being the Llano County Sheriff’s Office. This man was truly innocent of what he had been charged with,” Willis said. “He was put in the position, left holding the bag and with no resources.”

Scoggins was ineligible for indigent services from the county, and Llano County Commissioners denied requests to use county money for Scoggins and his supervisor’s defense.

“Mr. Scoggins was denied an attorney because his salary was (about 2 percent) above indigent consideration, so he retained a private attorney for the civil and criminal matter,” Brascom said. “We’re going to review the matter with our attorneys. The answer will be filed through the district clerk’s office, and then those answers will eventually go to a hearing.”

On Aug. 6, 2011, jail officials found Appell’s body in a cell at the Llano County Jail. He had been in custody for several months after being arrested on a criminal mischief charge, officials said at the time.

An autopsy by the Travis County Medical Examiner’s office determined Appell, 45, died after continually banging his head against a wall.

Scoggins and his superviser, Donny Stewart, faced second-degree felony charges of injury to a child/elderly/disabled with serious bodily intent.

In May 2013, the jailers entered no-contest pleas in exchange for Class A misdemeanor charges offered by Texas Attorney General’s Office that handled the case.

Scoggins agreed to 60 days in the county jail with 60 hours of community service. He also relinquished his state jailer’s certificate.

In the civil lawsuit, the county and the jailers sidestepped a federal court proceeding with a mediation agreement, which settled with the Appell family for $212,500 plus other legal fees.

In the lawsuit filed by Scoggins, the county has 20 days to respond to the petition, which is expected to be ruled on in the 33rd Judicial District Court.

editor@thepicayune.com