A homeless man arrested on misdemeanor marijuana charges mysteriously died in his jail cell on Sunday, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.
Jeffrey Pendleton, 26, was arrested inside a private residence for having a small amount of marijuana. He died exactly one year after being awarded settlements for lawsuits that challenged the city of Nashua's police for forcing homeless people off public property.
Pendleton was jailed on a $100 cash bond but couldn't raise the money to bail out, being homeless. He was found dead in his cell at 2:45 p.m. on Sunday.
“We will deeply miss Jeff,” said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, which had helped Pendleton with his legal actions. “He knew there were people like him out there having similar interactions with law enforcement. He wanted change, whether if for a black person or simply a poor person out of work.”
Pendleton won a total of nearly $20,000 in settlements from the cities of Hudson and Nashua after he was arrested for panhandling on public property and walking near a public library after police told him not to.
Pendleton had been in and out of jail and was apparently trusted and liked by jailers, who entrusted him to work within jails while incarcerated.
His death came just one day after the U.S. Justice Department sent a letter to judges nationwide, about concerns over the treatment of poor people by courts.
“Systems that rely primarily on secured monetary bonds without adequate consideration of defendants’ financial means tend to result in the incarceration of poor defendants who pose no threat to public safety solely because they cannot afford to pay," the letter reads.
According to the Union Leader, Pendleton worked low-wage jobs to make ends meet until he split from his wife in 2009, after which point he became homeless.
Read the Department of Justice letter, as posted by the Union Leader, here:
Watch a report, by NECN, as posted here: