AG on jail death: ‘They simply failed to assist him or care for him’

Muskegon County

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Muskegon County Sheriff Michael Poulin said an independent investigation by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association found his jail did nothing wrong in the April 2019 death of inmate Paul Bulthouse.

The report, he said, found the jail “acted appropriately in providing care and the performance of cell checks.”

But that’s not what Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office found — not even close.

“We are charging five individuals with involuntary manslaughter-failure to perform a legal duty, a 15-year felony,” she said in a press conference Friday.

Her office charged guards Jeffrey Patterson, Crystal Greve, Jamall Lane, Sgt. David VanderLaan and registered nurse Aubrey Schotts. Schotts worked for Wellpath, the out-of-state company that provides medical care for the jail.

The AG said her team relied, in part, on the sheriff’s association report, then went beyond it. Her assistants reviewed nine hours of video, more than 400 pages of medical records, conducted more interviews and consulted medical experts.

The 39-year-old Bulthouse was on suicide watch, requiring guards check on him every 15 minutes, Nessel said.

Paul Bulthouse photo from neck up
A mug shot of Paul Bulthouse from the Muskegon County Jail.

But a Target 8 review of surveillance video shows that didn’t happen.

The AG’s office said he suffered 22 visible seizures over five and a half hours without medical help.

The jail had cut off his medication meant to stop seizures.

“None of the seizure incidents were treated by the deputies, nor the registered nurse on site that night, even though evidence will show they were aware of the seizure activity,” she said.

In one case, Target 8 determined, Deputy Jeffrey Patterson, one of those charged, watched a seizure and walked away.

Bulthouse died after another 12 seizures, naked and in a puddle of his own urine. Guards didn’t discover he had died until 50 minutes later.

“We know that the defendants were in a position to observe both on camera and in person Mr. Bulthouse’s seizures, and yet they simply failed to assist him or care for him,” Nessel said.

The deputies and nurse were released on $10,000 bond. The sheriff has reassigned the jail deputies. Target 8 could not reach the deputies or nurse Friday at addresses listed in court records.

“As far as the sheriff’s decision to put them back to work, they are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” Nessel said. “That is a question for the sheriff as to what his reasons were.”

Also at the press conference Friday, Nessel also announced she would not file criminal charges in the controversial death of an inmate at the Lansing police lockup in April 2020. Anthony Hulon died after officers handcuffed him and pinned him to the floor. The difference, she said, the Lansing officers were following policy and their training.

“On the Bulthouse case, on the other hand, the allegations, part of them, and playing a role in whether these defendants were grossly negligent, is that the officers actually violated their own policies that they were specifically trained on, so that is a big part of the  contrast in these cases,” she said.

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