Relatives allege Clarence Thomas's nephew was beaten by hospital security in La.

By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 9, 2010; 7:59 PM

A nephew of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suffered a seizure after he was beaten during a scuffle with security guards in the emergency room of a New Orleans area hospital, relatives alleged Friday.

Derek Thomas, 25, was immobilized with a stun gun Thursday when hospital security tried to prevent him from leaving West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero, La., according to an account his sister, Kimberly Thomas, provided to WDSU, a local television station.

Kimberly Thomas said security officers used the device, possibly a Taser, to immobilize her brother. "One of the security guards punched him in the lip," she told WDSU. "Another one pulled out more than a fist full of his hair and, from that point, they [shocked] him."

Thomas has epilepsy, she said, and suffered a seizure shortly after the stun gun was used.

Their mother, Dora Thomas, confirmed the account in an interview with The Washington Post. She said she picked her son up from the hospital on Friday and he is resting at home.

"He's okay," she said. "He's as well as can be expected."

Clarence Thomas is upset about the incident and is planning to go to New Orleans to check on his nephew, perhaps as soon as Friday, Kimberly Thomas told the television station. Dora Thomas declined to comment on her brother-in-law's travel plans.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman told The Post that the justice had no comment on the matter. Reached at her home in Georgia, Clarence Thomas's mother, Leola Williams, said she, too, was flying to New Orleans to see Derek Thomas. "I'm just worried about my grandson," Williams told The Post, declining to answer questions about the incident.

The hospital issued a statement to reporters on Friday saying officials are investigating the incident. "Obviously, prior to the completion of any investigation, the true and accurate facts concerning an alleged event cannot be known," read the statement.

Col. John Fortunato, a spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, told The Post that the incident occurred Thursday about 2:30 p.m. Police officers went to the hospital to take an incident report, but they took no action because the situation was being handled by hospital security officials, Fortunato said.

Kimberly Thomas told WDSU that her brother, a Nicholls State University student, was admitted to the hospital on Thursday after becoming emotionally unstable. She said he sought an evaluation, but became "really adamant" about leaving once a doctor asked him to wear a hospital gown.

"He came there for personal reasons; the doctor was trying to get him to put on a hospital robe, and he did not want to put the gown on," she told the television station. "What happened was the security was going to forcibly make him put on the gown."

Kimberly Thomas said she is "sickened" by the incident.

"I'm sickened by it because my brother is a college student and a small business owner who has not been in any trouble," she said. "He's not violent and yet this is how they are treating someone."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company