Nicholas Sacco

Nicholas Sacco was 24 when he died in 2019 after spending five days at the Valley Street Jail.

The family of a young man who died after being held at the Valley Street jail is suing, saying corrections officers and jail nurses ignored the man's worsening opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Nicholas Sacco was 24 when he was arrested in May of 2019. Police said he was trying to steal from a Target.

He was to be released on personal recognizance bail, but because Sacco was on probation, he was held for five days at the Hillsborough County House of Corrections.

Hours before he was to be released, Sacco was rushed to the hospital, where he died from complications from opioid withdrawal. Sacco's family is suing the Hillsborough County House of Corrections and the doctors who they say should have treated Sacco for withdrawal.

“Appropriate access to care was not provided,” states a complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court, “and this failure contributed to his death.” 

Attempts to reach jail superintendent David Dionne Saturday were unsuccessful. A man who picked up a telephone number listed for the American Institutional Medical Group, the group contracted to provide medical services for the jail, said he had not yet been served with the complaint, and had no comment. 

Attorney Anthony Carr, who is representing Sacco's estate, said Sacco's requests for medical attention were ignored.

The complaint describes Sacco as a "great kid from a great family," who got hooked on heroin.

In jail, Sacco started going through withdrawal. Sacco asked for medication to help with his symptoms, and twice asked to go to the hospital. 

Jail nursing staff noted Sacco was in withdrawal, according to the complaint, and gave him a Styrofoam cup for water.

On the morning of May 21, jail staff saw Sacco slumped on his mattress, and vomiting green bile onto the floor. A short time later, they found him unresponsive, yellow-skinned, not breathing and without a pulse, according to jail nursing staff notes quoted in the complaint.

An ambulance took Sacco to the hospital around 9 a.m. He had been scheduled for release at 11:15 a.m. But Sacco died at Elliot Hospital the next day.

Jail staff should have known that the withdrawal Sacco was experiencing was a serious medical condition, the complaint states. The complaint contends corrections officers and jail health care providers responded with “deliberate indifference.”

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Carr did not say how much the family is seeking. 

In 2008, another 24-year-old went through withdrawal at the Valley Street jail, and died from withdrawal complications. The man's family sued the jail for $25 million.

About six weeks after Sacco died, Dionne told the Sunday News that Valley Street inmates would soon be offered medications like Suboxone and Vivitrol to help ease withdrawal and curb opioid cravings.

“This will really do some good,” Dionne said in July.

On Saturday, Carr said it was not clear if those medications were yet available to people experiencing withdrawal in the Valley Street jail. 

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