ENID, Okla. — An affidavit filed the case of four charged with first-degree manslaughter for the death of a Garfield County Detention Facility inmate describes more than 55 hours the man spent in a restraint chair.
Sheriff Jerry Niles and three others were charged on Valentine's Day with felony first-degree manslaughter in the June 2016 death of Anthony Dewayne Huff. The sheriff also was charged with two misdemeanor counts of nepotism.
The manslaughter charges are punishable by no less than four years in prison.
District Attorney Christopher Boring, who was appointed last year to investigate Huff's death, also filed manslaughter charges against then-jail administrator Jennifer Shay Niles, jailers John Robert Markus and Shawn Caleb Galusha.
The four charged were indicted last summer following the convening of a grand jury. Indictments handed up by the grand jury included the four and two nurses, Vanisa Jo Gay and Lela June Goatley, who were working at the jail at the time of Huff's death. The indictments were unsealed July 25, 2017, and each were charged with a single felony count of second-degree manslaughter, punishable by two to four years in prison, or up to a year in county jail, or a fine of up to $1,000, or both fine and incarceration. The indictments were dismissed in December, when Boring announced his intention to refile the indictments as criminal charges.
During their initial court appearance last year, charges were dropped against Gay. Charges were not refiled against Goatley. No new court date has been set for the four charged. An order filed Feb. 14 states all Garfield County judges have recused from the case and Associate District Judge Ryan D. Reddick, of Beaver County, has been assigned to preside the cases.
Recording in restraint chair
A five-page affidavit written by OSBI Agent Charles Dancer filed in the manslaughter cases details violations of the jail and Oklahoma State Department of Health's policies pertaining to the use of a restraint chair, leading the investigator to write that Huff was treated cruelly and inhumanely.
Huff was arrested by Enid Police Department June 4, 2016, on a complaint of public intoxication, according to the affidavit. Huff was booked into the jail at 1:15 p.m.
From June 4 to June 6 at about 11:45 a.m. there were no written reports of any violent or major incidents of disturbances that were caused by Huff, according to the affidavit. Jennifer Niles had Huff placed into a restraint chair about 11:45 a.m. June 6. Huff was strapped and handcuffed to the chair and placed in a medical unit cell.
At 10:51 p.m. June 7, Huff was moved out of the medical unit cell and placed into an open area of the medical room, which had video recording capabilities but no audio recording capabilities, according to the affidavit. Huff was still restrained in the chair.
According to the affidavit, the county jail had its own "Restraint Chair/Restraints" policy that reads, "No employee of the Garfield County Detention Facility will use the restraint chair as a disciplinary device. It is to be used to prevent a detainee from causing harm to him/her, other detainees, staff or property."
The policy also states the decision to place a detainee in the restraint chair is determined by the shift supervisor and requires, that when used, the restraint chair was to be placed in a holding cell in the booking area with a camera in the cell, according to the affidavit.
The policy also requires monitoring of a detainee placed in the chair, including: staff checking the detainee every 15 minutes, offering bathroom breaks at least every two hours, offering the opportunity for finger foods at scheduled meal times, offering water whenever appropriate but at least every two hours and conducting circulation checks at least every hour. The last provision of the policy is in bold letters stating, "Documentation of each of the above listed requirements will be documented on the Restraint Chair Log Sheet."
The policy also requires approval from a medical or mental health professional for a detainee to be held for more than four hours in a restraint chair. Continuation for more than eight hours requires a medical exam, according to the affidavit. The policy also requires a detainee's entire stay in a restraint chair to be recorded and saved by the jail administrator.
'Cruel and inhumane treatment'
Huff was not recorded from the time he was booked until 11:45 a.m. June 6 when he was placed into the restraint chair, according to the affidavit. No video has been found of Huff from the time he was placed in the restraint chair until 10:41 p.m. June 7.
The only recording of Huff's confinement in the restraint chair is from the time period after he was moved from the medical unit, according to the affidavit.
Dancer wrote that upon reviewing the video, "It appears that water was offered to Huff at the beginning of the video. Later in the video, it appears that on one occasion a food tray was placed on Huff's lap while he remained cuffed and strapped in the restraint chair. Huff's handcuffs and restraints were not removed in order for him to be able to eat or drink anything."
The tray remained in Huff's lap for about 30 minutes before the tray was dropped onto the floor. The food and tray were picked up and removed, according to the affidavit.
The video also shows that hourly checks, as required by the jail's restraint chair policy, were not conducted, according to the affidavit. Huff was never released from the restraint chair, and restraints were not removed from his arms, legs or body at any time during the recorded period.
Of the 19 hours of Huff's recorded confinement, no physical examinations were performed by a medial or mental health professional, as required by policy to keep Huff in the restraint chair for more than four hours, according to the affidavit. Also, no medical personnel or doctor checked Huff as required by policy for keeping a detainee restrained for more than eight hours.
Huff's restraint chair log shows numerous entries, indicating food and water were offered, as well as circulation checks and bathroom breaks; however, review of the video shows the basic requirements did not occur as they were recorded on the log signed by jail staff, according to the affidavit.
Huff had been confined at the Garfield County Detention Facility several times previously, according to the affidavit. During the period of June 4 until he died on June 8, 2016, some jail staff were aware Huff was exhibiting symptoms not consistent with previous encounters, including but not limited to hallucinations and irrational behavior.
At 5:34 p.m. June 8, 2016, Huff appears to die while sitting and restrained in the chair, according to the affidavit. About 40 minutes later, at 6:14 p.m., Huff was discovered by jail staff and was unresponsive. About 6:25 p.m., Huff was removed from the chair. Emergency personnel unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate Huff.
"Huff was restrained in the restraint chair from approximately noon on June 6, 2016, until he died about 5:34 p.m. June 8, 2016, a continuous period of over fifty (55) hours," according to the affidavit. Huff was never released from the chair during this time frame to use the bathroom.
The sheriff, jail administration, shift supervisors and jail staff at the Garfield County Detention Center that were in charge of Huff did not have full knowledge of the restraint chair policy, according to the affidavit.
"They had not received adequate formal training or instruction with respect to the policies or use of the restraint chair," Dancer wrote. "No one responsible for the health and safety of Huff fully complied with the Oklahoma jail standards or the restraint chair policy with respect to the entire period of time Huff was confined to the restraint chair.
"Huff's confinement in the restraint chair for over fifty-five (55) hours without food, water, bathroom break or medical treatment was cruel and inhumane treatment towards (sic) an inmate in county jail."
A request for the jail video made by the Enid News & Eagle was denied because the video was considered part of an ongoing investigation, one of the listed exemptions of the Oklahoma Open Records Act.
The autopsy report for Huff lists the probable cause of death as "chronic alcoholism, sequelae," a pathological condition resulting from a prior disease, injury or attack.
The report, prepared by Medical Examiner Dr. Marc Harrison, included comments about Huff's death.
"This 58-year-old black male was reportedly found unresponsive in his jail cell (by jailers). EMS responded, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. He has reported medical history of hypertension, chronic alcoholism, drug abuse (not otherwise specified) and seizures (not otherwise specified)," according to the report.
Tests of Huff's blood were negative for ethyl alcohol and revealed a trace of sertraline, an antidepressant. The examination also found possible indicators of liver or kidney disease.
On July 31, 2017, Niles gave Garfield County Commissioners a letter noting the distraction of the indictments to the county and the sheriff announced he was suspending all employees involved in the matter, including himself.
"I am innocent of the charges," the letter reads. "However, I understand this matter can be distracting for the Garfield County Sheriff's Office."
Niles, who is suspended with pay, had no comment when contacted Wednesday.
The affidavit in the nepotism case was prepared by District 26 investigator Steve Tanio.
On Aug. 22, 2016, Garfield County District Attorney Mike Fields requested the Oklahoma attorney general to appoint a prosecutor to investigate allegations of official misconduct by Sheriff Niles in the appointment of his son Logan Niles and daughter-in-law Jennifer Niles within the sheriff's office, according to the affidavit. In Fields' request to the AG, he attached correspondence with Sheriff Niles consisting of legal advice regarding nepotism on two separate occasions: Dec. 6, 2012, and June June 21, 2016.
In the December letter, Fields tells the sheriff his son could continue his employment with the office after the sheriff's official election. However, Fields advised Sheriff Niles there could be no change in his son's "position, duties, responsibilities and compensation after you take office as sheriff. ... There can be no changes in his status after you take office without that being a new 'appointment' and thus being in violation of the nepotism laws," according to the affidavit.
In the June letter, Fields again referenced his legal advice from the previous letter. It also states, "It has come to my attention that Jennifer Niles, your daughter-in-law, may have a different title, position, duties or responsibilities (than) when you took office. If this information is accurate, then you may very well be in violation of Title 21, Section 481."
Fields also noted he'd had a "handful of conversation with Sheriff Niles. ... In these conversations, Sheriff Niles indicated to Fields that he did not believe he had violated the state's nepotism laws," according to the affidavit. Fields reviewed payroll certifications from the Garfield County Clerk and determined changes in compensation for both Logan and Jennifer since Sheriff Niles has been in office, as well as changes in the "nature or work" column for Jennifer.
Raises and promotions
The attorney general's office appointed Boring to investigate the allegations.
Tanio obtained records Nov. 20, 2017, from Acting Sheriff Rick Fagan pertaining to the sheriff's office, according to the affidavit. The records show in 2012 Jerry Niles was employed as undersheriff for then-Sheriff Bill Winchester. In December 2012, both Logan and Jennifer were employed as deputy sheriffs.
On Aug. 28, 2012, Jerry Niles won the sheriff's election with the term beginning in January 2013, according to the affidavit. On Dec. 10, 2012, Winchester promoted Logan to sergeant.
Tanio reviewed a letter from Jerry Niles dated May 29, 2014, "To: All Staff, Ref: Changes in Staffing," according to the affidavit. The letter states, "Effective 1 June 2014, Deputy Jennifer Niles will be assigned as the Jail Administrator with Bill Winchester as the Assistant Jail Administrator. Effective 1 June 2014, Sgt. Helm and Niles will be setting their work schedules. Sgt. Helm will, along with his shifts, have Fleet Inspections and Equipment, and training. Sgt. Niles will, along with his shifts, have canine, dispatch and training. They will report to Undersheriff Fagan."
Also on Nov. 20, 2017, Tanio obtained records from Garfield County Clerk Lorie Legere for Jerry, Logan and Jennifer Niles.
In July 2012, Logan Niles was employed as a K-9 deputy with a monthly salary of $2,780, records show. In December 2012, he was promoted to sergeant with a salary of $2,992. Due to cost of living adjustments in June 2014, Logan's salary was $3,170, according to the affidavit. On July 14, 2014, Jerry Niles reclassified Logan as a second deputy/sergeant position with a new salary of $3,300, which was an increase of $130 per month. Logan is currently employed with the sheriff's office in the same position.
Records for Jennifer Niles showed in December 2012, she was employed as a deputy sheriff with a monthly salary of $2,678. In mid-June 2014 Jennifer was still employed as a deputy sheriff and due to cost of living adjustments had a salary of $2,835, according to the affidavit. Jennifer was reclassified as jail administrator with a salary of $3,357 and had changes in her job duties.
On June 29, 2016, Jennifer Niles was terminated by Sheriff Niles, records show.
For Jerry Niles, each count of nepotism is punishable by a fine of $100 to $1,000 and forfeiture of office.