The B-Scan machine, which scans inmates for internally hidden contraband, is the entry point to the jail from the booking department at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison, shown here in March 2019. Morning Sentinel file

A new federal lawsuit alleges that Somerset County Jail officials and staff failed to provide adequate care for an inmate who died in 2023 from exposure to a lethal drug.

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor on May 20, four days before the filing of a similar but separate lawsuit regarding the death of an inmate who died by suicide at the jail in Madison.

Mitchell Watson of Dexter died at the county jail in East Madison on Feb. 6, 2023. A lawsuit, filed on behalf of the inmate’s father, Millar Watson, alleges that his son died from exposure to street drugs smuggled into the jail and was not provided proper mental and physical health care while incarcerated.

“Defendants knew, or should have known, that Mr. Watson was suffering from serious symptoms of drug exposure and deliberately or with depraved indifference let him die,” the complaint alleges. “Defendants further negligently failed to secure the jail from the importation of drugs into the facility.”

Millar Watson, who is the personal representative of the estate of his son Mitchell Watson, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages; reasonable attorney’s fees, costs and disbursements; and additional relief as the court deems just and proper.

Attorney Stephen Smith, of the Augusta law firm Steve Smith Trial Lawyers, is representing Millar Watson, as well as the plaintiff in the other, similar lawsuit filed May 24.


The complaint names Somerset County, Sheriff Dale Lancaster, Assistant Jail Administrator Michael Pike and supervisor Joshua Bowden as defendants.

Pike is now the jail administrator and holds the rank of major in the sheriff’s office, according to Lancaster. Bowden is no longer employed by Somerset County, Lancaster said.

Lancaster, Pike and Bowden — who were also named in the other lawsuit last month, along with a corrections officer — are being sued in their individual and official capacities, according to the complaint.

Peter Marchesi, the attorney listed on summonses issued to the defendants, said in an email Monday that he could not comment on the case as he is still determining which defendants he will represent.

Marchesi, of the Waterville law firm Wheeler & Arey, said that the county, the sheriff, and the jail administrator intend to “vigorously defend” themselves in the other lawsuit regarding the inmate suicide.

Using similar language as the other lawsuit, the Watson lawsuit alleges that the county, sheriff, and jail officials violated Watson’s civil rights and their “committed reckless and conscious disregard” led to Watson’s wrongful death.


Watson was 35 at the time of his death, according to an obituary published in the Bangor Daily News, which did not state the cause of death.

He arrived at the Somerset County Jail on Feb. 2, 2023, according to the lawsuit. Somerset County Sheriff’s Office records show that Watson was being held on one count of burglary, two counts of theft, and one count of violation of bail, Lancaster said.

In the days between Watson’s booking at the jail and his death, “the defendants were well aware of an influx of dangerous street drugs into the jail from various sources,” the complaint states.

Lancaster did not comment on the particular case but said that corrections officers are generally aware that inmates may attempt to bring in illegal contraband.

“The Somerset County jail staff is very cognizant that individuals coming off the street may be in possession of contraband at the time of their booking,” Lancaster said in an email Monday.

On Feb. 5, 2023, Watson’s roommate reported to corrections officers that Watson was “behaving oddly” and in “deteriorating condition.”


The officer on duty in that part of the jail, Corinne Pelletier, reported to her supervisor, Bowden, that Watson could not be awoken, according to the lawsuit. Pelletier “was uncertified, untrained, unsupervised, and unassisted,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims that Bowden ignored the reports initially, and then “made a perfunctory attempt to get (Watson) to respond to stimuli but ultimately gave up and simply left (Watson) ultimately to die.” Watson was pronounced dead shortly after 1 a.m. on Feb. 6, 2023.

Bowden was known to his supervisors as a “poorly functioning supervisor, “called inmates “slugs” and was known to “flip off” inmates, the lawsuit claims.

Jail staff did not complete checks of inmates’ conditions every 15 minutes during a 12-hour period before Watson’s death, the lawsuit states. Corrections officers did not call for medical help or administer an opioid exposure antidote available to them within a reasonable amount of time, the complaint alleges.

“Defendants were each deliberately indifferent to the (Watson’s) serious medical needs,” the lawsuit says. “Each knew that the (Watson) had been experiencing significant medical symptoms. Despite this knowledge, each defendant failed to provide or obtain the necessary emergency medical care the (Watson) required. This failure by each was negligent, knowing, intentional, willful, wanton, reckless, and deliberately indifferent. As a result, the decedent suffered extreme, extended pain and anguish and eventual death.”

The lawsuit also alleges that corrections officers at the jail were not properly trained or supervised, and the jail was not adequately staffed.

No responses to the complaint have yet been filed, according to online federal court records.

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