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When Barnes was asked why guards would take such frequent notes but not list what would seem to be a major event taking Armstrong out of the chair and putting him back into it Barnes said he didn't know why guards didn't record those events.
Barnes said his look into the matter, however, has convinced him Armstrong was released from the chair; and he said there is a video that shows Armstrong out of the chair during that 24-hour period of confinement.
Barnes added that Armstrong wasn't relieving himself while in the chair, and he said that's further evidence Armstrong was periodically removed and taken to the bathroom.
Barnes also said there's no proof that being in the chair caused Armstrong's death. The sheriff said that anyone in good health in normal circumstances could be unfortunate enough to die by blood clotting of the type that medical examiners say killed Armstrong.
Barnes also said the 21-year-old inmate had been banging his head on the cell walls before being put the chair, which was one reason he was restrained in the first place.
In the logbook at several points in time, it mentions, "Nurse present" or has a similar indication.
In addition to suing the county, the family also sued Prison Health Services (PHS) which now goes by the name Corizon the company that provides medical service to the county's jails and also to the county's clinic in southeast Greensboro. One source with knowledge of that suit said that PHS/ Corizon settled the suit against them for a larger amount than the nearly half million dollars paid out by Guilford County
Bill Hill, an outside attorney who handled the case for the county, like Barnes, contends that the main issue for Guilford County
was a failure to keep proper records during the time Armstrong was confined to the chair.
Hill also said the family wished to keep the matter quiet.
According to Payne, the Guilford County
Board of Commissioners approved the terms of the $475,000 settlement in closed session in mid October.
Payne said it is permissible under state law for the board to give consent on legal settlements in closed session, and he said he had also gotten an opinion on that from the NC Institute of Government, which he said concurred with his opinion.
NC General Statute 143-318.11 states, "The public body may consider and give instructions to an attorney concerning the handling or settlement of a claim, judicial action, mediation, arbitration, or administrative procedure. If the public body has approved or considered a settlement, other than a malpractice settlement by or on behalf of a hospital, in closed session, the terms of that settlement shall be reported to the public body and entered into its minutes as soon as possible within a reasonable time after the settlement is concluded."
Payne said official notification of the settlement will occur when the minutes for the closed session in which the settlement was discussed are approved by the board. That is expected to happen at the board's Thursday, Feb. 7 meeting. Those minutes do not mention the nature of the case or the amount of the settlement.
A draft of the minutes of the Nov. 1, 2012 closed session states: "William Hill, Attorney representing Guilford County
Sheriff's Department, informed the Board that settlement documents have been signed regarding the death of an inmate in the Guilford County
Detention Center. Chairman [Skip] Alston asked questions concerning the settlement and Sheriff Barnes explained the events of the case. Sheriff Barnes said he has addressed the issues that led to the settlement and as a result a policy change has been made in his department."
The minutes also state that former Commissioner Paul Gibson ask Hill in that closed session how much he was getting paid by the county and, according to the minutes, "Mr. Hill said in excess of $10,000."
The Rhino Times has requested the total legal cost of Hill's services from Payne in two emails and a phone call but the county attorney has not provided that information.
Armstrong was being held on a $4,000 bond, which meant that $400 paid to a bail bondsman could likely have gotten him out of jail. Armstrong was in jail for about a week before his death. He was being held on assault and battery, extortion, and two counts of failure to appear.
Sources who described Armstrong at the end of his life say he was a troubled man with mental issues; however, his life up until a few years before his death seems to be a different story.
He was born on Nov. 1, 1989 in Wilmington to Terrell Edward Williams and Marsha Lorraine Armstrong. That means the settlement was paid to the family on what would have been his 23rd birthday.
According to Armstrong's obituary, he graduated from Heide Trask High School in Pender County in 2007. After High school, Armstrong spent part of the summer traveling before he went on to become a student at NC State University.
His obituary states, "While in High School Mason would be a very good student and an exceptional athlete who participated in basketball, football, Track and Field, and JROTC. He attended the New Born Church of God and True Holiness. He sang in the Youth Choir, and played the saxophone. Mason loved to play the saxophone and developed into a skillful musician. In March of 2004 Mason received the Gift of the Holy Ghost."