Wife, family seek millions in damages from city

A Newport Beach woman is seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages from the city, claiming police erroneously arrested her husband who had bipolar disorder and killed himself in jail.

Sandy Wedgeworth, 34, and family members filed four claims against Newport Beach on Monday seeking upward of $34 million in damages from emotional distress, loss of a husband and father, and loss of future earnings.

William Robert Wedgeworth, 43, hanged himself with bedsheets in a Newport Beach Police Department jail cell July 31. Police had arrested him earlier in the day on suspicion of spousal abuse against his wife.

According to the four claims filed Jan. 21, Sandy Wedgeworth called 9-1-1 requesting emergency medical aid for her husband, who was having a "manic episode."

On Aug. 28, 2009, Wedgeworth claims, police were at the house for a similar incident. During that episode, her husband was hospitalized under the California's Welfare & Institutions Code 5150, which states the person is a danger to themselves or others and puts them in 72-hour detention for observation.

Wedgeworth claims she asked for another 72-hour detention during the 2010 incident when police, not paramedics, were sent to their house.

William Wedgeworth was arrested and booked about 3:40 p.m. that day. About 10 p.m. police found him dead in his cell. Paramedics were unable to resuscitate him.

"This is a sad and tragic loss," said Newport Beach City Atty. David Hunt. "We take it very seriously, and we've done a thorough investigation into the circumstances underlying it. We concluded there was nothing we could've done to prevent it. The jail is safe, and our officers did their job correctly."

Wedgeworth is accusing officers of possibly assaulting her husband, joking about the incident while they arrested him, negligently depriving him of his rights to medical treatment and putting him in a dangerous place without proper care in that jail cell.

It was the second in-custody death in a little more than a year for Newport Beach police.

Michael Purnell, 50, used bedsheets to asphyxiate himself in May 2008.

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