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Charges Filed in Investigation of Man’s Death While in County Jail

One year after an inmate died in the Arlington County jail, a man has been charged in connection with his death.

For the last year, the Arlington County Police Department has been investigating the death of Darryl Becton, 46, while in custody of the county jail on Oct. 1, 2020. One year later to the day, a man named Antoine Smith appeared in Arlington County General District Court on charges related to the investigation, according to a press release from the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Smith was charged with the misdemeanor of falsifying a patient record, according to the release. Police obtained a warrant for his arrest on Sept. 24.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney did not return requests for more information about who Smith is, who he works for and what records he falsified.

“The Commonwealth may not discuss the details of an ongoing investigation and Professional Rule of Responsibility 3.6 prohibits public commentary regarding the details of a pending case,” the release said. “A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and a charge is not evidence.”

What we do know is that Arlington County’s jail contracts with correctional healthcare provider Corizon Health to provide medical care to inmates. Last year, the contract was extended to 2025.

A D.C. area man who goes by the name Antoine Smith lists his occupation as a licensed practical nurse and his employer as Corizon Health, according to a LinkedIn profile.

Corizon has been sued multiple times across the nation for inmate deaths allegedly connected to inadequate care.

Assuming Smith is indeed employed by Corizon, this is not the first time a correctional nurse from Corizon has been charged with a crime involving an inmate in Arlington.

In 2014, another nurse from Corizon was charged with misdemeanor sexual battery and found guilty in Arlington General District Court, in an incident that was not previously reported publicly. He appealed to the Circuit Court and a deal was reached between the inmate and the nurse that allowed him avoid a jail time, according to Maj. Susie Doyel, the then-spokeswoman for the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail.

The news of the latest charges marks a step forward in the case, which police told ARLnow in August could soon be concluded.

Last fall, Becton, who is Black, was being held on an alleged probation violation after being convicted in 2019 of a felony, “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.” On Oct. 1, 2020, a sheriff’s deputy and an Arlington Department of Human Services caseworker found Becton unresponsive in his cell. Despite resuscitation efforts, Becton was pronounced dead 30 minutes later.

Within a week, the Arlington branch of the NAACP wrote to the sheriff’s office and the police department requesting an independent investigation. The same month, Sheriff Beth Arthur and then-Acting Chief of Police Andy Penn wrote a joint response.

“The death of Mr. Becton is tragic and we can assure you that a thorough and comprehensive criminal investigation into this matter will be conducted by the ACPD, followed by a comprehensive administrative investigation by ASCO to determine if all applicable policies and procedures were followed surrounding Mr. Becton’s incarceration,” Arthur and Penn wrote.

Between then and August, little information had surfaced in Becton’s case. ARLnow learned from the medical examiner’s office that his cause of death was ruled to be hypertensive cardiovascular disease — caused by sustained high blood pressure — complicated by opiate withdrawal, and the manner of his death was ruled to be natural.

This case has been a top priority for the NAACP, as Becton was the fifth person — and the fourth Black man — to die in the facility between 2015 and 2020, per the Sheriff’s and Police Chief’s letter.

Those numbers increased last week, when an inmate named Clyde Spencer became the sixth person, and the fifth Black man, to die in custody in six years. In the wake of his death, the NAACP again raised concerns about “delayed answers for Mr. Becton’s family” and calling the pattern of deaths “unacceptable, unconscionable, and distressing.”

In response to yesterday’s news about charges against Smith, Arlington NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain, Sr. said charges are not enough, as Becton’s family still needs answers.

“This is not justice for the NAACP,” Spain tells ARLnow. “This is not justice for the family. We will continue to assure that justice is served.”

Smith is expected to return to court on Nov. 9 for a hearing.

As for the review the NAACP requested, after ACPD concludes its investigation, the file will be sent to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office for independent review, according to the joint letter.

The Sheriff’s Office, meanwhile, is investigating whether applicable policies and procedures were being followed.

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