5 Years' Probation For Man Charged With Killing Inmate

Gant Called 'Indirectly Responsible'

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 6, 2008; Page B03

A man who had been charged with manslaughter in the death of a fellow inmate at the Prince George's County jail was sentenced yesterday to probation on a lesser charge.

Octuan Gant, 33, was accused of punching Demetri R. Stover in August 2007. Stover, 46, fell to the ground, striking his head. He died a week later.

In court yesterday, Gant's attorney repeated his claim that prosecutors and the defense agree evidence showed "that Mr. Gant was not the direct cause of Mr. Stover's death." Assistant Public Defender Michael D. Beach said Stover's death was attributable to the way he was handled by jail officers after the fall and to a "lack of medical treatment."

Stover, in jail on charges that he stole $60 worth of merchandise from a grocery store, was treated roughly by guards as he was escorted to a medical ward, a video recording shows. Stover was evaluated and released from the infirmary after about five minutes.

At the sentencing, a doctor testified for the defense that Gant has a life-threatening cardiovascular condition. Beverly Lorell said Gant takes blood-thinning medication and has to be vigilant about his diet and avoid injuries. Incarceration would place him at "tremendous risk," she said.

Beach did not elaborate on his assertion that Gant did not cause Stover's death, a claim he first made when Gant pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in August.

Assistant State's Attorney Gessesse Teferi, who did not dispute the claim, asked the judge to sentence Gant to 21 months in jail.

Had Gant not hit a man many years older than him "and whom he outweighed by 50 pounds, we would not be here," Teferi told Circuit Court Judge Sean D. Wallace.

Wallace sentenced Gant to 10 years in prison, suspending all but 180 days, and credited him for 180 days already served. The judge placed Gant on five years' probation.

Wallace told Gant that, "It's clear to me you're indirectly responsible" for Stover's death.

"Frankly," the judge said, "I don't think the taxpayers of Prince George's County or the state of Maryland should be paying for your medical care."

A video recording of the Aug. 17, 2007, incident shows Stover lying on the ground, arms behind his back, as jail officers approach. One officer kneels and appears to press his left knee into the back of Stover's head or neck.

Moments later, two officers walk him through a doorway, and as soon as the inmate is out of camera view, both officers shove hard. A loud thud is heard, then wailing.

Stover and Gant were taken to the jail's medical ward and placed in separate cells. In the video, reviewed by The Washington Post, a large knot is visible on the back of Stover's head. Less than four hours later, Stover was found convulsing in his cell. He later died at a hospital. Medical examiners ruled that he died of head injuries and declared the death a homicide.

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