The family of a man who died in the Humboldt County Jail in 2014 was awarded $2.5 million in damages by a federal jury in August 2017. The jury found that three corrections officers were negligent in failing to initiate proper screening of the man before placing him in a sobering cell. The county was also to blame for failure to adequately train the officers. It was noted that the officers were not thought to have acted with malice or a conscious disregard for human life. The trial lasted four and a half days. The six man, two woman jury deliberated for 10 hours before delivering their unanimous verdict.
The man who died, Daren Ethan Borges was a 42-year-old homeless man. He had been diagnosed as schizophrenic. He was arrested on June 13, 2013 for public intoxication in Eureka. Officers first detained him at approximately 2:15 p.m. as he stood at the Seventh and D Street corner. He was booked into jail by 2:40 p.m. He was placed in a sobering cell alone. Officers checked on him at 4:00 p.m. but found him unresponsive. He was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead approximately 20 minutes later.
The federal civil rights lawsuit was brought by Stephany Borges, the deceased mother. It was filed by Dale Galipo and John Fattahi, two southern California lawyers. The suit originally named the city of Eureka, county of Humboldt, individual officers with both agencies and the California Forensic Medical Group, Inc., which administered medical services at the jail on a contract basis, as defendants. U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, however, dismissed the case against Eureka and its officers. California Forensic Medical Group agreed to settle its portion of the case for $250,000. Humboldt County did not make a settlement offer in the case. Sheriff Mike Downey and four officers were the only defendants left in the suit when it went to court in August.