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After Diabetic Woman's Arrest, A 125,000 Settlement

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After Diabetic Woman’s Arrest, a $125,000 Settlement




Jaime Rutkowski


Her decision to smoke a marijuana cigarette outside aManhattan bar where she was attending a bachelorette party landed JaimeRutkowski in jail, threatened her life and lead to a lawsuit that on Mondayyielded $125,000 from the city.


On Oct. 16, Ms. Rutkowski, who has diabetes, said she wasthrown to the ground and arrested on charges of possession of marijuana outsidea club on Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side.


Stress elevates her blood sugar levels and at the nearbypolice station house, the blood sugar meter she uses was confiscated. Sherelied on the meter to determine how much insulin to inject into her systemfrom an insulin pump inserted in her stomach. An overdose could belife-threatening.


The police eventually called for an ambulance more thanthree hours after Ms. Rutkowski had been taken into custody. Emergency medicaltechnicians found that her sugar level was almost four times the normal level,dangerous enough to take her to Bellevue Hospital Center.


Ms. Rutkowski and her lawyer, Joel Berger, filed a suitagainst the city and the officers involved in part because they hope it willalert the the Police Department to the needs of diabetic prisoners.


“The settlement is so high because a woman nearly died,”said Mr. Berger.


Mr. Berger also said Ms. Rutkowski’s crime was “trivial.” Headded: “Almost any jury was not going to be exactly shocked by the nature ofthe offense. They’re not going to view this as the crime of the century.”


Ms. Rutkowski was charged with a class-B misdemeanor andreceived an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, which means that she wasnot fined and that after one year her case will be dropped and sealed.


Elizabeth Thomas, a spokeswoman for the city’s LawDepartment, said, “We believe the settlement is in the best interest of all theparties.”


The Police Department’s aggressive enforcement of marijuanapossession laws has led to an increase in arrests for possessing small amountsof the drug. While many of those arrests result in fines but no jail time, theydo typically result in spending a night in jail.


“They could have killed me over a joint,” Ms. Rutkowskisaid. “Something needs to be done.”


Mr. Berger said the police did not have a specific protocolto deal with diabetic patients, something that he believes needs to beaddressed. “Police officers need to understand that when they arrest adiabetic, there are potentially life-threatening effects,” he said.


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