Inmate held on murder charge sues after losing leg to infection

Awaiting trial over fatal car wreck, Juan Cervantes alleges jail staff ignored his wound

A man facing a murder charge in connection with a fatal DUI crash is suing San Francisco over his alleged mistreatment at County Jail.

Juan Cervantes, 33, had his leg amputated in June after developing a staph infection from a wound he sustained during the vehicle collision, according to the federal lawsuit he filed Dec. 4.

Cervantes alleges that County Jail medical staff initially gave him antibiotics for the infection, before ignoring his complaints as the wound grew worse and began emitting “a foul odor.”

“Cervantes was visibly pale,” his attorneys from the Law Offices of John Burris wrote in the lawsuit. “He constantly shook without control.”

Cervantes was found unconscious in his cell, according to the lawsuit. He was taken to the hospital and underwent three surgeries before doctors decided to amputate his left leg.

Cervantes is suing for deliberate indifference to pre-trial detainees and other causes. He claims jail staff “intentionally failed” to seek proper treatment for his wound.

The lawsuit names the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Public Health.

“We’ll review this lawsuit once we’ve been served with it, and we’ll respond accordingly in court,” said John Cote, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office.

Cervantes is being held in connection with the death of 31-year-old Phala Neuo.

Court records describe a chaotic series of events that led to her death in the collision near an entrance to Highway 101 at Cesar Chavez and Vermont streets on the early morning of March 31.

Prosecutors say Cervantes was driving a silver Chevy Camaro in circles during a sideshow in the Bayview with Neuo in the back seat and a 16-year-old teenager in the passenger seat.

At some point, shots were fired near Toland Street and McKinnon Avenue and the Camaro drove off alongside a Nissan Altima, according to court records.

Cervantes then allegedly crashed the Camaro into a concrete barrier while attempting to turn onto the freeway in Potrero Hill, and the Altima smashed into the Camero.

Police Chief Bill Scott previously said that the two vehicles were racing up Bayshore Boulevard before the collision.

Cervantes is charged with murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, two counts of DUI causing injury, child endangerment, driving with a suspended licence and disobeying a domestic violence court order.

He is facing a murder charge under the Watson murder rule, which allows prosecutors to pursue the charge if a person dies as a result of the defendant driving under the influence of alcohol. The charge is bolstered by the defendant having a prior DUI conviction.

Cervantes has two prior DUI convictions out of Alameda County from 2012 and 2015, court records show. He also has a prior conviction for attempted robbery in 2009.

Neuo was a mother of four from Richmond, according to a GoFundMe page created by her family at the time.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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