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The Gibson Law Firm

KHOU 11 News

Deputies' Prank with a Fake Snake Injuries Former Inmate


CHAMBERS COUNTY -- A prank that may have been intended for laughs wound up causing a former inmate in Chambers County a lot of physical pain.


“My legs feel like they're going to collapse on me," said Robert Coats. “It feels like I’m going paralyzed.”


Coats blames the way he feels on an incident that occurred in March while he was an inmate trustee working in the shop at the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office.


He said one day a deputy ordered him to retrieve a special tool from the floorboard of his vehicle. When Coats opened the door, he saw what looked like a snake.


“That was a big Diamondback Rattlesnake with his head up. And I slammed the door and tried to run. And my legs crossed and I fell in an awkward position," said Coats.


The snake turned out to be a fake. But, Coats’ injuries were very real. He fractured a disk in his back and severed some nerves, he said, to the apparent amusement of the deputies.


"They were laughing,” said Coats. “They had to walk off they were laughing so much. They didn't even want to look in my face while they were laughing."


An attorney has filed a lawsuit for negligence.


"In this particular case, someone exercised some very poor judgment,” said attorney Jason Gibson. “They made a bad decision and as a result, a man got injured severely."


According to the sheriff, the deputies involved didn't mean to hurt anyone. But all of them were sent home without pay as part of their punishment for the prank.


Coats never saw the humor in it.


“It was a bad joke for me,” he said.


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