A woman is taking civil action in federal court against Webster County and several county officials, including the former sheriff who is currently in jail, after her husband was temporarily released from jail and attacked her with sulfuric acid at her home last year.
In the complaint, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi in Aberdeen, Felicia Robinson claimed that on Sept. 1, 2018, Daren Patterson — a pretrial detainee and inmate at the Webster County Jail — was released by then-sheriff Tim Mitchell for a weekend furlough. The complaint alleges later that evening Patterson tried to kill Robinson by pursuing her with a car as she ran.
An incident report was prepared by the Eupora Police Department following the altercation and in the preliminary statement filed Monday, it’s said Mitchell was informed of the attack.
However, Robinson’s legal counsel argues Mitchell released Patterson for another weekend furlough on Nov. 2, 2018, knowing that Patterson would return to terrorize his wife.
The night of the incident, Patterson — out on furlough — punched a hole in the wall of Robinson’s house. Robinson then called former sheriff’s dispatcher Santana Townsend for help.
Court filings allege Townsend gave the phone to another inmate to speak to Patterson and after talking with the inmate, Patterson was “seething with unbridled fury until he drenched Mrs. Robinson’s nearly naked body with sulfuric acid.”
Robinson’s attorney says she suffered 16 second- and third-degree burns.
The complaint says Townsend has since been terminated from her dispatcher position at the sheriff’s department.
Patterson — who was convicted in 2014 of felony possession of cocaine (second offense) — is currently being held at the Chickasaw County Jail in Houston, Mississippi. Prior to the alleged attack on his wife, Patterson had been sentenced to serve eight years, with four in prison and four under post-release supervision.
Court documents show Patterson was released in January 2018, but that May, while he was on probation, Patterson assaulted a Eupora police officer and was found to be in possession of methamphetamine.
Later that year in September, prior to the first documented incident with Robinson, Mitchell, who had yet to be charged and removed as sheriff, made Patterson a trusty at the Webster County Jail, giving him special privileges. Mitchell and Townsend were indicted in January for corruption, with Mitchell pleading guilty to some of several charges on June 12, which prompted his immediate resignation.
The complaint says while Patterson was being held in pre-trial detention in Webster County, Mitchell authorized him to “enjoy an unsupervised weekend jail pass,” despite knowing that he had recently caused bodily harm to a local police officer.
On the night of Sept. 1, an intoxicated Patterson became involved in a public altercation with Robinson at a pool hall in Eupora, which resulted in Patterson striking his wife in the face and attempting to run over her with a car as she fled on foot.
Records show Patterson was charged with leaving the scene of an accident by the Eupora Police Department on Sept. 4, 2018 and Mitchell was notified of the incident.
Despite the previous violent altercation, Mitchell granted Patterson a second unsupervised furlough on Oct. 11, 2018 for one night. Robinson’s attorneys claim Patterson, constrained by time, did not assault his wife during this furlough period.
However, on Nov. 2, 2018, Mitchell granted Patterson a third furlough for a weekend celebration, requiring him only to return to jail on the morning of Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018.
Even with his history in consideration, Robinson claims Mitchell acted with “reckless disregard” for her health and safety by giving Patterson an unsupervised weekend furlough.
The afternoon Patterson was released for the third time, the couple was at a pool hall in Eupora when Patterson threw a beer can at his wife and punched her in the face. The next day, he threatened to burn her house down and continued to verbally and physically abuse her.
As the situation escalated throughout the day — including Patterson busting a hole in the wall of her home — Robinson called Townsend, a relative, knowing she would be at work as a sheriff’s dispatcher. The complaint says Robinson felt confident Townsend would send a deputy, but instead, she handed the phone to another inmate to speak with Patterson. Records indicate the two talked for about seven minutes.
Robinson’s legal counsel argues that aside from Townsend handing the phone to another trusty, none of the official defendants listed in the complaint made any attempt to assist her, despite being terrorized by an inmate in their custody.
After the call ended, Patterson allegedly became more enraged and threw his wife on the bathroom floor of her home and punched her repeatedly until she blacked out. He then poured Liquid Fire drain clear, which contains sulfuric acid, over her nearly naked body causing severe corrosive burns to her face, chest, arms and legs.
Robinson managed to escape to a neighbor’s home, but Patterson gave chase, allegedly grabbing her by the hair and forcing her to return to her home, all while refusing to take her to the hospital.
Despite being taken back to her home, Robinson managed to grab her keys and escaped in her car and eventual sought treatment at a hospital.
The attack left Robinson in severe pain and caused disfigurement. To date, Robinson says her health care providers have performed services valued at more than $878,000.
On Nov. 20, a couple of weeks after the acid attack, Patterson’s post-release supervision was revoked due to the assault on a officer charge and he was sentenced to serve the remaining four years of his 2014 sentence. He was indicted for aggravated assault and kidnapping by a Webster County Grand Jury in May.
In the civil complaint, Robinson cited the severe and permanent scarring on her body as well as several other physical and psychological impediments, in addition to having her constitutional rights violated by persons acting under color of law.
Robinson is currently seeking damages to cover court costs, medical charges and damage to her property, along with non-pecuniary damages such as severe pain and emotional harm. She is also seeking relief in the form of a court order governing the processes of pretrial detainees being released on weekend passes without direct supervision.
Robinson is requesting compensatory damages in an amount greater than or equal to $30 million plus punitive damages against Mitchell, Townsend and Patterson for claims filed against them in individual capacities in amounts to be determined by the court.