Suit: Guards mocked former professor before death in jail van

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An Amelia Island man is suing two companies after his son, a former college professor, died while be transported across the country in a private prison van. According to the lawsuit, he had been sick and lost 46 pounds in 10 days, but his pleas for help were ignored -- even mocked.

An autopsy found 47-year-old William Weintraub, PhD, died of a perforated ulcer.

In April 2014, Robert Weintraub got a call from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, saying his son had died in custody as a private inmate transportation company drove him from Colorado to South Carolina.

GBI agent: "I have some bad news for you."
Robert Weintraub: "Is this about William? Is he alive?"
Agent: "No sir. I'm sorry."
Father: "They didn't have the proper medications. They didn't take care of him. He was locked up, moving around from place to place. I knew that was going to happen. Nobody would believe me."

William Weintraub taught physics at a couple universities, most recently at Coastal Carolina University, but ran into trouble in 2014 when he was arrested, accused of making threats to a South Carolina newspaper, which published an article about him. Police in Boulder Colorado arrested him and hired Prisoner Transportation Services of America to drive him back to the East Coast.

"Immediately they cut off all his medications," attorney Curry Pajcic said. "His problems were obvious. He was passing out on the bathroom floor; he was witnessed vomiting blood."

Pajcic is suing Prisoner Transport Services of America and Advanced Correctional Healthcare, the business that screened William Weintraub as he was housed at a correctional facility during the trip. Pajcic said neither company did anything to help an obviously ailing prisoner.

"He is described as looking like the Walking Dead. They tell him, 'You get in the van, it's time to go.' He can't even step up in the van. They pick them up, shackled hand and foot, pick him up and throw him on top of the other prisoners in the van," Pajcic said.

As staff picked up other inmates across the country,  William Weintraub got sicker.

"During the transport, when he leans over, he stops breathing, he urinates on himself. Other detainees start slamming on the door. 'We need help! We need help!' Pajcic said.

When employees finally did stop the van at a North Georgia jail, William Weintraub had been dead so long, his body was stiff. Other inmates were chained by his side. Pajcic described it as a slow, painful and torturous death all at the hands of people hired to transport prisoners safely.

"If they had just gotten him to a doctor an hour before, he would still be alive," Pajcic said.

News4Jax has asked managers at both companies for comment. Neither has responded.

Last week, the New York Times published an article on Prisoner Transport Services of America after learning that four inmates have died in while in its custody since 2012, and there are dozens of claims of mistreatment and brutality while being transported.  

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.