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Family of man who died in Allegheny County Jail demands justice

Family of man who died in Allegheny County Jail demands justice
Family of man who died in Allegheny County Jail demands justice 01:41

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The family of a man who died in the Allegheny County Jail is demanding change. 

Gerald Thomas died in March, but according to his family, he should not have been in jail because his charges were dropped.  

Thomas' family spoke on the steps of the City-County building on Thursday. They said Judge Anthony Mariani is to blame for why their loved one is no longer here.  

"I have lost more than anyone can ever repair or replace," Thomas' mother, Juana Saunders, said.  

According to Thomas' family, Mariani put Thomas back in jail even after the charges were dropped. According to court records, the judge put Thomas back in jail in February for what he claimed was Thomas' own safety. At one point, he said, "I don't want to see you dead in the street on Friday." 

"He locked Gerald up for what he considered to be his own safety. He spoke for me, Gerald's mother, and the family as if this were something we would have wanted," Saunders said.  

Thomas' loved ones also accused the Allegheny County Jail of not handling his death properly. They said they were never notified and when they called the jail, they were given no answer about his condition.  

"Gerald was not a criminal, and he is not a criminal. He was just a young man who was trying to find his way," Saunders said.  

In a statement, the jail said, "We understand the family is grieving, but that is not accurate. The jail informed Thomas' emergency contact which is that process. Next of kin is a legal distinction and that notification is made by the Medical Examiner's office, not the jail. Ms. Saunders was not listed as her son's emergency contact. 

In addition, four members of Mr. Thomas' family arrived at the jail the day he passed and met with Warden Orlando Harper and other members of the administration. Ms. Sanders was not among those who met with the warden at the jail." 

"Mariani, my son's blood is on your hand. And Warden Harper, you need to be fired," Saunders said.  

According to the medical examiner, Thomas died of bilateral pulmonary embolism, better known as a blood clot in an artery in the lung.  

Mariani's office had no comment Thursday.

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