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BREAKING NEWS: Family of Carol Gotbaum serves PHX with a Notice of Claim for $8 million.

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The late Carol Gotbaum with her children.

Just under the wire today, Phoenix attorney Mike Manning served a Notice of Claim to the City of Phoenix in the still-mysterious death of Carol Anne Gotbaum, asking for $8 million on behalf of the Gotbaum family. As you may recall, Gotbaum died September 28 in police custody at Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport after being arrested for disorderly conduct. Handcuffed and shackled, she apparently managed to asphyxiate herself. Maricopa County Medical Examiner Ann Bucholtz ruled the death an accidental "hanging," and found that Gotbaum's blood tested positive for 0.24% ethyl alcohol, and for antidepressants.

The Notice of Claim reads in part: "On [the day of Gotbaum's death], members of the Phoenix Police Department ("PPD") used excessive and unreasonable force on Carol as if she was a dangerous criminal, rather than as the sick, intoxicated, and vulnerable person she was. Instead of getting her the medical and mental help she so obviously needed, officers first restrained her with unnecessary and excessive force, then took her to a holding cell where they shackled her with a chain and left her alone. In the process, they ignored the warning signs that their own policies, procedures and training materials told them could result in Carol's death. And it did. Carol died shortly thereafter, in the chains the officers placed upon her, in the room where they left her all alone and without help."

The entire Notice of Claim is over 200 pages long, and I've only read the introduction, which you can also read, here. The PHX PD, for their part, have responded with a long letter which essentially places the blame on Carol's husband Noah for allowing his wife to fly unescorted to Arizona, where she was supposed to enter a rehab facility in Tucson as treatment for alcoholism. The PHX PD response doesn't hesitate to get personal. Check this excerpt from the document:

"Noah has admitted that Carol was in deep depression and should not be alone. Michael, I believe even you are quoted as saying that, `You don’t leave someone that you know is sick.' Well, who left Carol alone knowing she was sick? Noah did. And he now criticizes the police officers for dealing with a situation that he, as her husband, could have prevented.

Even more telling, the Gotbaum family criticizes the officers because the officers did not `put an arm around [Carol’s] shoulders, sit her down and give her some attention.' So, with Carol reportedly screaming her hatred of `American cops,' the Gotbaum family believes that these same hated officers should have put their arms around her shoulders, sat her down, and given her some attention. One would ordinarily expect that role to fall to a spouse. But, Carol was alone."

The penultimate graph is especially stinging:

"In 2007 the Phoenix Police Department received over 33,000 calls for service and made almost 4,500 adult bookings involving Disorderly Conduct/Loud Noise and Drinking. Is there anyone seriously suggesting that the officers should place a 24-hour suicide watch on each “drunk and disorderly” suspect they arrest? That they should put their arms around their shoulders, sit them down, and give them some attention? Or is this treatment only for the wealthy and politically influential?"

You can read the entire response, here. Previous coverage can be accessed by clicking on Carol Gotbaum's name below. My initial take is that the PHX PD response is a little too nasty. Manning's NOC seems a lot more measured and thoughtful. I personally hope Phoenix and the Gotbaum family settle. It's not as if the PHX PD set out to do Carol Gotbaum harm. On the other hand, someone collared for disorderly conduct should not die in police custody, even if she was snockered at the time.

Full disclosure: Mike Manning represents New Times in its claim against Sheriff Joe and County Attorney "Candy" Thomas. You know, the one resulting from the arrests of New Times founders Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin. If you've been living under a rock, you can get the skinny on that, here.

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