This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Cynthia-Mae Tela Askie faces felony driving under the influence and assault charges that might put her in prison for years, but that's not her biggest problem.
The problem is a misdemeanor drunken driving conviction in Murray Justice Court. The judge there who sentenced Askie, 28, to 120 days in jail refuses to release her even though attorneys and a state court judge have agreed Askie has serious complications from sickle cell anemia that need medical care.
The Salt Lake County Jail, where Askie has been held since April 2, has the authority to release Askie but is declining to do so.
"I hate to say close to death," said Askie's attorney, Nick Falcone, "but I think her situation is critical. In five years of being at [Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association] I don't think I've ever had this situation before."
Askie entered the jail weighing 105 pounds but has since lost 10 to 15 pounds, Falcone said. Falcone says Askie requires blood transfusions as well as medications and monitoring. Falcone contends the medical facilities and staff at the Salt Lake County Jail are inadequate to treat Askie.
Third District Court Judge Royal Hansen agreed. At a June 10 hearing, Hansen, with approval from the prosecutor from the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, ordered Askie to be taken directly to University Hospital for treatment, according to a court docket. Hansen ordered Askie to home confinement and ankle monitoring but said she could leave her home to receive medical treatment as necessary.
Askie's hearing was held shortly after she arrived at the courthouse that day, Falcone said. Bailiffs tracked down Falcone so he could hurry to the courtroom and he and Askie, who was in a wheelchair and wearing oxygen tubes, could see Hansen before other cases.
"Which never happens, by the way," Falcone said.
But after receiving treatment at University Hospital that day, Askie was returned to jail.
Salt Lake County jail Lt. Mike DeNiro, who said he was not familiar with Askie's case, said it's jail policy to follow a judge's order to keep an inmate even if another judge agrees to a release.
"It's like if you murder one person and rape another and the judge on the murder says you can go home, you still need to be cleared on the rape," DeNiro said.
The jail can release someone for medical reasons, but such releases "very rarely" occur, DeNiro said.
Askie has three separate felony cases in 3rd District Court. Two of the cases have counts of drunken driving and lesser traffic violations. The third case has the most serious count an assault charge that carries up to five years in prison if she is convicted of threatening her roommate with a knife. A preliminary hearing is scheduled in that case for June 23.
The case keeping Askie in jail is a March 1 conviction for driving under the influence and driving without the required alcohol interlock system. Askie represented herself in that case before Murray Justice Court Judge W. Paul Thompson.
Askie wrote to Thompson on May 3 asking to be released from jail. Thompson denied that request. Falcone said Askie made a second request, but that was not reflected on the court docket.
A court spokeswoman Thursday said Thompson cannot discuss the case because it is pending. Prosecutor Brittany Huff could not be reached for immediate comment.
Falcone, who was assigned to be Askie's public defender in the felony cases, said he has contacted the Murray Justice Court and a clerk told him Askie would have to file another request for release or paperwork to make Falcone her attorney in that court and then Falcone could file another request for release.
"However, the clerk has already let us know since it has already [been denied] twice the release isn't likely," Falcone said.
Falcone said he is treating Askie's case with urgency given the death of inmate Carlos Umana at the jail on Feb. 27. Umana died of starvation and dehydration. He suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder that went untreated, and he believed people were trying to poison him. Umana, who was awaiting trial on an attempted murder charge, was represented by the same public defenders office where Falcone works.
"I think that case hit everyone here very hard," Falcone said.
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Sickle cell anemia
It is caused by a type of hemoglobin that distorts the shape of red blood cells and deliver less oxygen to the body's tissues. The abnormal cells can clog easily in small blood vessels and disrupt blood flow. Symptoms include:
• Attacks of abdominal pain
• Bone pain
• Rapid heart rate
Source: National Institutes of Health