Former Arlington Detention Officers Sentenced to Probation in Inmate Death

Two former detention officers will each serve one year of probation for their roles in the 2015 death of an inmate at the Arlington City Jail.

A judge sentenced Stephen Schmidt and Pedro Medina to deferred adjudication Tuesday morning, meaning if they complete their probation without violating any terms, all charges related to the case will be wiped from their permanent records.

Schmidt and Molina pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges Monday. Schmidt pleaded to official oppression while Medina pleaded to assault causing bodily injury instead of the original charge of criminally negligent homicide.

Police picked 42-year-old Jonathan Paul up from his apartment after reports he was screaming and throwing things out a window. They arrested him on outstanding misdemeanor traffic warrants and took him to the Arlington City Jail.

In a series of surveillance videos, Paul was seen shouting to no one in the back of a squad car. In his jail cell, he appeared to be in serious mental distress, yelling nonsense and at one point taking off his pants to stuff them in the toilet.

"He never should have been taken to jail. He probably should have been taken to [John Peter Smith Hospital]," NAACP Arlington chapter president Alisa Simmons said.

There were several officers involved. It escalated when they moved Paul to a different cell, after he clogged the toilet with his pants. The officers pepper sprayed him and dragged him to another cell where he lay on the ground without moving for 23 minutes before paramedics came and took him to the hospital.

Paul died three days later, with a kidney injury, respiratory and liver failure and psychosis. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner ruled that restraint, pepper spray and acute psychosis all played a significant role in Paul's death. He had traces of marijuana in his system but no other drugs.

"In custody, no weapons, not combative, deceased," Simmons said.

Schmidt was allowed to retire shortly after the incident, and Medina was fired soon after being indicted.

During Tuesday's hearing, Paul's uncle, Marvin Phillips, addressed the court, saying his family will likely never feel that justice was done -- but he went on to forgive both men.

"Knowing that most of this wasn't your fault -- some of it was due to training, some of it was do to egos and opinions...I can only forgive you," said Phillips. "That's because the God I serve -- I have to. But I still hurt. I'm still angry. I'm still upset."

The Tarrant County District Attorney's Office released the following statement after Schmidt and Medina were sentenced.

"After considering all the evidence and the circumstances of these cases and talking with the family of Jonathan Paul, this agreement was determined to be the best response to the level of personal involvement of these defendants.

"Both defendants will have to strictly uphold the conditions imposed by the court in order to successfully complete their sentences. We are hopeful their accountability for their roles in this tragedy will bring some measure of closure for the Paul family."

Schmidt and Medina's attorneys said they would have liked to go to trial to show "the real reasons that some of these things happened in the jail" -- but ultimately, the District Attorney's Office made an offer they couldn't turn down.

"There's remorse that a life was lost," said Robert Rogers, Medina's attorney. "And it shouldn't have happened. But [Medina and Schmidt] aren't the individuals to blame. They're sacrificial lambs, they're scapegoats for the incompetent leadership of [Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson] and the way he handles the jail."

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