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Ramsey-Guy pleads guilty to lesser charge in dehydration jail death trial

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Updated: 12:28 p.m. January 18, 2019

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A former correctional officer's trial has ended in a no contest plea. James Ramsey-Guy pleaded guilty to no contest of a lesser charge for obstructing an officer Friday after a week long trial. He had been charged with neglecting an inmate.

Ramsey-Guy is one of three correctional officers charged in the death of Terrill Thomas who died of dehydration in his jail cell after Ramsey-Guy turned off the water to his cell.

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Updated: 6:00 p.m. January 17, 2019

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- It's day four of the trial for a former Milwaukee County Corrections Officer, charged with neglecting an inmate. 

Terrill Thomas died of dehydration after the water to his cell was shut off. 

The prosecution called their witnesses, some of them former and current Milwaukee County Jail Guards. 

The defense says James Ramsey-Guy followed orders that came from his supervisor, but information about water being shut off wasn't written in the jail log. 

If Ramsey-Guy is found guilty, he could face up to three and a half years in jail. 

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Updated: 5:52 p.m. January 15, 2019

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Lawyers made opening statements Tuesday in a case accusing former Milwaukee County Correctional Officer James Ramsey-Guy of neglecting a Milwaukee County inmate, causing him to die from dehydration.

Guards shut the water off to inmate Terrill Thomas's cell, after Thomas flooded it. Thomas was bipolar and was in jail after firing a gun inside Potawatomi Casino. A medical examiner's report found dehydration as the likely cause of death. Tomas went without water for seven days.

The prosecution argues Ramsey-Guy is the one who physically shut the water off, he didn’t tell the next shift, and never turned it back on, making him responsible for Thomas' death. Shutting off the water is against jail regulations.

“He neglected the defendant because at the end of his shift, he didn’t turn the water back on," Attorney Kurt Benkley said. "He doesn’t turn it back on. He shuts it off, and he doesn’t turn it back on.

But Ramsey-Guy’s attorney Scott Anderson says despite the rules, the jail routinely shut off water to inmates for safety reasons, such as flooding. Anderson also argued medical staff at the jail who could have also noticed Thomas needed water, and that Ramsey-Guy was simply following the orders of commanding officers.

”Turn his water off. That’s the order," Anderson said. "And you’re going to hear that that type of order, for this type of situation, flooding of a cell is a routine practice.”

Witnesses began to testify late Tuesday afternoon. Ramsey-Guy is one of three correctional officers charged with a felony in the incident, including his supervisor who ordered the water be shut off.

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Posted: 6:11 p.m. January 14, 2019

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The trial for a former Milwaukee County Correctional Officer accused of turning off the water to an inmate started Monday.

James Ramsey-Guy is charged with shutting off the water in Terrill Thomas' cell. Thomas later died of dehydration. 

On Monday, the state selected a jury that will decide his fate. 

Inmate Terrill Thomas died after seven days without water according to the Medical Examiner's report. He was in jail for running into Potawatomi Casino and firing a gun. Thomas' family said he was suffering from a psychotic episode at the time. 

Ramsey-Guy is one of three correctional officers charged with a felony in the case. He argues he was just doing what his superiors ordered in turning off the water but the state says that doesn't make it legal. 

"I was just following orders is not a defense to criminal liability. We have an act that is contrary to jail regulation and simply is unlawful. And 'I was just following orders' does not absolve a defendant," said Kurt Benkley with the prosecution. 

The trial is expected to last the rest of the week. Opening arguments are scheduled for Tuesday. 

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