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The family of Irvo Otieno criticizes move to withdraw murder charges for now against 5 deputies

A Virginia judge has agreed to a prosecutor’s request to drop charges against five more people in connection with the 2023 death of Irvo Otieno, a young man who was pinned to the floor for about 11 minutes while admitted to a state psychiatric hospital. .

Dinwiddie Circuit Court Judge Joseph Teefey on Sunday granted a motion by prosecutors to dismiss, or effectively dismiss, the case against five sheriff’s deputies, according to court records. Prosecutors may still seek to renew the charges, according to lawyers involved in the matter.

Irbo Otieno’s autopsy reveals cause of death as suffocation

The move means that of the 10 Henrico County deputies and Central State Hospital employees initially charged with second-degree murder in Otieno’s death, only three are currently actively being prosecuted. But the incident was captured on video, sparking outrage and calls for mental health and law enforcement reform. .

A Virginia judge has approved a prosecutor’s request to drop charges against five more people in connection with the 2023 death of Irbo Otieno. Otieno, a young black man, was pinned to the floor while in a state psychiatric hospital. (Associated Press, file provided by Ben Crump Law)

Otieno, a 28-year-old black man, was being held in suburban Richmond amid a mental health crisis. He was initially taken to a private hospital, but he was later jailed after law enforcement officials claimed he became combative. He was then taken to a state psychiatric hospital south of Richmond, where he died in March 2023 from what the coroner diagnosed as “positional and mechanical asphyxia due to restraint.”

A video from the hospital showed a scrambling of Otieno, who was handcuffed and shackled, by deputies and hospital staff.

Otieno’s mother and lawyers said at a press conference Monday that they strongly disagree with the prosecutor’s actions. But they also said prosecutors assured her that the decision was made for strategic reasons and that she intended to pursue her charges again.

Otieno’s mother, Caroline Oko, called the move “a radical and reckless decision with huge consequences.”

“We demand justice and nothing else,” she said, reiterating her long-standing call for the U.S. Department of Justice to get involved in the case.

The prosecutor, Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Mann, did not respond to questions from The Associated Press. She said in a news release that she would not comment further because the motion to dismiss her charges speaks for itself.

Among these motions, Mann wrote that her predecessor, interim U.S. attorney, had planned the defendants’ trial order. Mann wrote in each individual’s motion that the timing of the trial was strategically important, adding: “I do not believe this order is sound and competent prosecutorial decision-making.”

Russ Stone, an attorney for one of the five senators, Dwayne Bramble, said Mann may choose to press charges again. But he said such a development would be “extremely rare.”

“It has been our consistent position that this was prosecutorial overreach” when the first federal prosecutor in the case “indicted innocent people without a proper basis,” Stone said.

“And I appreciate the fact that the current federal attorney corrected that,” he said.

Attorneys for the others – Jermaine Branch, Randy Boyer, Bradley Diss and Tabatha Lever – did not respond to phone messages seeking comment.

The prosecutor who initially took charge of the case, who has since resigned, dropped criminal charges against two hospital employees last June.

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Jury trials are scheduled for October and December for two deputies and a hospital employee in charge of the ongoing case, according to online court records.

In a separate civil lawsuit, Otieno’s family reached an $8.5 million settlement with the state, county and sheriff’s department, whose agents helped take him into custody.

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