Garfield County, Okla., Sheriff Jerry Niles and five other jail officials are facing second-degree manslaughter charges after being accused of being responsible for the death last year of an inmate because of negligence.
Oklahoma’s multicounty grand jury charged in the indictments that Niles, 59, and the others were responsible for Anthony Huff’s death by allowing the inmate “to remain in a restraint chair for over 48 hours without adequate food or water,” The Oklahoman reports.
On Tuesday, Niles, who was first elected in 2012, pleaded not guilty to the charges. His bail was set at $5,000.
The other suspects were identified as 38-year-old Vanisa Jo Gay, a nurse; 29-year-old John Robert Markus, assistant jail administrator; 57-year-old Lela June Goatley, a nurse practitioner; 37-year-old Shawn Caleb Galusha, a detention officer-supervisor; and 34-year-old Jennifer Niles, the sheriff’s daughter-in-law, who was the jail administrator at the time of the incident.
If convicted, all the suspects could face the maximum punishment of up to four years in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Despite the charges, Niles still remains in control of the sheriff’s office and the jail (it is insane how these things “work”).
Huff was pronounced dead at the jail on June 8, 2016, after he was found unresponsive in the restraint chair, The Oklahoman notes. The 58-year-old had been jailed a mere four days prior to his death on a public intoxication complaint. He was first put in the chair on June 6 of last year, after he reportedly began hallucinating.
“It’s an ongoing investigation,” District Attorney Chris Boring told the news site.
A pathologist who conducted an autopsy ruled that Huff died as a result of complications from his chronic alcoholism.
His estate followed up by filing a federal lawsuit, with attorneys claiming that Huff “died due to conditions related to his withdrawal from alcohol and the effects it had on his body and system.”
The sheriff, Garfield County commissioners and others are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which seeks actual and punitive damages. The lawsuit is currently pending in federal court in Oklahoma City.
In the meantime, however, the family is pleased that the grand jury decided to indict the six officials.
“It is our hope and belief that justice will be served as those who have been indicted ... for their involvement in this death now proceed through our criminal-justice system,” Eddie Wyant, one of the attorneys for Huff’s estate, said.
Read more at The Oklahoman.