Oklahoma Jail Administrator, Guard Receive 55-Hour Sentence for Prisoner’s Death
by Scott Grammer
Anthony Dewayne Huff, 58, was arrested in Garfield County, Oklahoma on June 4, 2016 for public intoxication and booked into the Garfield County Detention Facility. Two days later he was put in a restraint chair and, on June 8, was “found unresponsive” while still strapped in the chair. He was pronounced dead that same day.
A federal lawsuit filed in 2017 accused jailers of being negligent because they should have been aware from Huff’s previous incarcerations that he took medications for heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and other medical conditions. The suit alleged that Huff was originally placed in the restraint chair because he began hallucinating and exhibiting delusions. Jail staff did not obtain a medical recommendation to use the chair, didn’t check his blood pressure, didn’t give him his medications and didn’t offer him hydration, according to the complaint.
Surveillance video recorded Huff while he was in the restraint chair. According to Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent Charles Dancer, “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.”
On March 11, 2019, Jail Administrator Jennifer Shay Niles pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 55 hours in jail – which was less time than Huff spent in the restraint chair prior to his death. She also received a six-year deferred sentence with 24 months of supervision, and was ordered to pay costs and fees, a $1,000 assessment and $250 to the victims’ compensation fund.
Former jail guards John Robert Markus and Shawn Caleb Galusha entered pleas on the same day to charges of second-degree manslaughter in connection with Huff’s death. Galusha, who pleaded no contest, received a three-year deferred sentence and 55 hours in jail, and was ordered to pay a $1,000 assessment and other fees. Markus pleaded guilty in exchange for a four-year suspended sentence, a $1,000 fine and other costs.
Garfield County Sheriff Jerry Niles, Jr. and jail nurses Vanisa Jo Gay and Lela June Goatley also were indicted on manslaughter charges; additionally, Niles was charged with nepotism for hiring his son, Logan Niles, and daughter-in-law, Jennifer Niles, and then increasing their salary or compensation. The original indictments were dismissed in December 2017, but district attorney Christopher Boring refiled charges against all of the defendants except Gay and Goatley. Sheriff Niles was not bound over for trial on the manslaughter charge.
Huff’s brother, James Edward Graham, holding a box containing his brother’s ashes, said, “This is what vitriol looks like. This is what hate looks like. This what a system of nepotism looks like.”
Sheriff Niles, who was placed on administrative leave, was replaced by Undersheriff Rick Fagan; following Fagan’s death in April 2018, Sgt. Jody Helm was appointed acting sheriff for Garfield County. The nepotism charges against Jerry Niles remain pending.
Sources: kfor.com, usnews.com, enidnews.com, vanceairscoop.com