Outspoken jail psychiatrist who testified at Nikko Jenkins hearing says he was fired - Omaha.com
Published Friday, February 21, 2014 at 1:00 am / Updated at 12:21 am
Outspoken jail psychiatrist who testified at Nikko Jenkins hearing says he was fired

He was outraged and outspoken — the most colorful psychiatrist to testify in the Nikko Jenkins competency hearing.

Now, he says, he's out of a job.

Dr. Eugene Oliveto said Thursday he has been fired as the psychiatrist at the Douglas County Jail because of comments he made in court about authorities' failure to commit Jenkins to a mental-health facility before the killings of four Omahans.

Oliveto said Correct Care Solutions — the Nashville, Tenn.-based private contractor that provides health care services at jails across the country — called and fired him Thursday, citing concerns about keeping its contract with Douglas County.

Correct Care Solutions officials denied that they fired Oliveto.

“Dr. Oliveto has always operated as a part-time subcontractor to CCS and remains in that capacity with the company currently,” said Patrick Cummiskey, executive vice president of CCS.

Oliveto said CCS is “playing with words.”

“They said, 'You're terminated. We can't keep you because the county doesn't want you,' ” Oliveto said.

The 72-year-old doctor — a native New Yorker who describes himself as “street-smart” and a “truth teller” from a large Italian family — said he plans to meet with a labor attorney to discuss a possible lawsuit.

Oliveto said the “real person responsible” for the firing was Mark Foxall, Douglas County corrections director.

Foxall declined to comment Thursday, calling it a personnel matter between CCS and Oliveto.

Oliveto said Foxall called him into an office and took him to task after his testimony last week in a Douglas County courtroom.

Three psychiatrists, including Oliveto, had been called to talk about Jenkins' mental state as he awaits trial in the Aug. 11 slayings of Juan Uribe-Pena and Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz; the Aug. 19 killing of Curtis Bradford; and the Aug. 21 slaying of Andrea Kruger. A judge on Thursday found Jenkins competent to stand trial.

During the competency hearing, Oliveto spoke of Jenkins as “crazy ... totally insane” and the steps that led to his release from a state prison July 30.

Oliveto said Foxall was ­fuming after the testimony and told the doctor that he had a “spy” in the courtroom listening to Oliveto's testimony. The jail's Lt. Ernie Black sat in the back of the courtroom throughout the three-hour hearing.

Foxall “looked like his head was going to explode,” Oliveto said. “It was unbelievable how he attacked me. He tore me a new (expletive). He talked to me like I was some snot-nosed kid who didn't know (expletive).

“The issue is, I told the truth. There would be four people alive if somebody had read my recommendations.”

Though he declined to comment about Oliveto, Foxall did say that Douglas County Jail officials were not part of the decision on whether to seek a commitment on Jenkins.

Before being charged in the killings, Jenkins' last stay at the jail was in 2011. He had been transferred back to the Nebraska prison system for two years before his July 2013 release.

A couple of days after his testimony, Oliveto said, he was put on paid leave. Oliveto said his departure comes just weeks after CCS gave him a raise. Oliveto worked 14 hours a week at the jail, and he said he was paid $132,000 a year.

Oliveto said his comments clearly got under Foxall's skin.

A sampling of the doctor's more colorful testimony:

» “If I order neuropsych testing, they won't pay for it at Douglas County Corrections. ... I'm going to tell you right now, (Jenkins') brain, if you put it on a ... scan, he'd be so disconnected from his frontal lobes that the guy ... they wouldn't even know what was wrong with him. ... He's disconnected from his heart and he's disconnected from his soul.”

» “He (Jenkins) runs the show, because for some reason he's treated differently than other people. I have no idea why. I wanted him Board of Mental Health committed. Nobody did it.”

» “I have no idea why they asked me to do these reports. Nobody in administration read the report. I tried to get him Board of Mental Health committed. It was stonewalled in administration. I have no idea. This is a political case.”

Oliveto said he stands by his comments.

After evaluating and treating Jenkins in 2010 and 2011, Oliveto diagnosed him as schizophrenic and as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

One other psychiatrist agrees with Oliveto — while three state psychiatrists have said they believe Jenkins is feigning mental illness to excuse his behavior.

Oliveto noted that his 2011 reports included repeated comments Jenkins made about committing a “bloodbath” when he got out.

“He's one of the most dangerous people I have ever been in contact with, and he should have never been let out,” Oliveto said in court.

In a December report otherwise critical of the handling of Jenkins, the state ombudsman held up Oliveto and the Douglas County Jail mental-health staff as examples of how to be responsive to inmates' needs.

Public Defender Tom Riley — who subpoenaed Oliveto to testify — said he thought Oliveto's comments were directed more at the entire system, including state prison officials, than just jail leadership.

Riley said he was reluctant to get in the middle of a spat between two men he respects: Oliveto and Foxall.

Told of Oliveto's status, Riley said: “That's pretty disgusting. He took an oath to tell the truth on the stand. Assuming he did that — and I have no reason to doubt it — he shouldn't be penalized just because it's not something people want to hear.”

Oliveto, who went to Creighton University Medical School and has worked in the Omaha area for four decades, said he will continue to “tell the truth” about Jenkins' release, no matter the consequence.

But he said he'll miss his job in the jail. Oliveto said he grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and had a special ability to connect with street-tough inmates.

He said he hasn't slept much in the past week. He quipped that he would have had a heart attack if he didn't “still lift weights.”

“I don't know why I'm the one here getting persecuted,” Oliveto said. “I don't know why I'm getting screwed.

“I'm going to fight back. I loved that job. I loved taking care of those people.”

Timeline: 4 killings tied to Nikko Jenkins

Contact the writer: Todd Cooper

todd.cooper@owh.com    |   402-444-1275

Todd covers courts and legal issues for The World-Herald.

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