Civil-rights activist says he was injected with ‘poison’ in Tarrant County Jail

Posted Friday, Feb. 28, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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A local civil-rights activist, recently jailed for contempt of court for allegedly failing to pay child support, says he was injected with an unknown poison while being booked into the Tarrant County Jail.

The Rev. Kyev Tatum made the allegation in an email distributed to several people in which he declared himself a “political prisoner” of Texas and claimed that he and his wife, Tonya, are being “tortured, terrorized, tarnished and mistreated” by the city, county and state because of his civil, political and religious views.

“This is inhumane treatment under the law,” Tatum wrote in the email, a copy of which was obtained by the Star-Telegram.

Terry Grisham, a spokesman for the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department, said all inmates are screened by John Peter Smith Hospital and Mental Health Mental Retardation staff as part of booking.

“The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office does not inject inmates with anything. Period,” Grisham said. “Giving inmates medical injections is not what we do.”

JPS spokeswoman J.R. Labbe said that she could not speak directly to Tatum’s care in jail but that all inmates are given tuberculosis tests, as required by state law.

Inmates who decline a TB test, Labbe said, must be isolated in a negative-pressure room until they can have a chest X-ray to determine whether they have tuberculosis bacteria.

Tatum, president of the Tarrant County Southern Christian Leadership Conference, confirmed to the Star-Telegram on Friday afternoon that he wrote the email. He said the woman who stuck him never explained that it was a TB screening or that he had the option to decline the test.

“I felt like I was in an experiment or something,” he said, adding that his arm is still red and irritated.

Tatum said he is outraged about his treatment in jail and about the state’s child support system, which put him there.

“They put me in there with hardened felons, murderous criminals, for a debt,” Tatum said. “A debt.”

Tatum was arrested Feb. 21 on a contempt-of-court warrant issued by a family court judge. Records show that he was also jailed for contempt of court in June 2009.

This time, jail records show, Tatum spent just short of 24 hours in jail before posting a $3,600 cash bond and being released.

According to family court records, Tatum had been ordered to serve community supervision in November 2012 in lieu of 180 days in jail after a judge found that he failed to make child support payments to his ex-wife, Martha Ann Castex-Tatum, for the care of their son.

On Aug. 29, officials filed a motion to revoke Tatum’s community supervision, saying he failed to make current and past child support payments between December 2012 and June 2013, putting him behind by more than $21,000.

Tatum also failed to report monthly in 2013, as ordered, to a community supervision counselor, the motion says.

An arrest warrant was issued Sept. 3, court records show.

Tatum said he did not pay the support because he gave his wife a large sum at the time of their divorce to support his son.

Since his arrest, he said, he’s been ordered by the court to pay $25,000 by March 20.

Even if he pays it, he said, his attorney has advised him that the judge might still sentence him to 180 days in jail for contempt of court.

“This is absurd,” said Tatum, who ran in the Democratic primary for the 33rd Congressional District in 2012.

“You know and I know this is all because of my political speech. They’ll try to do anything to take my voice out of the picture as far as speaking to what’s happened to poor people. This is insane.”

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655 Twitter: @deannaboyd

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