Garfield County Sheriff Jerry Niles Charged With Second Degree Manslaughter in Inmate’s Death


ENID — Garfield County Sheriff Jerry Niles and five other defendants are being blamed in second-degree manslaughter indictments of causing an inmate’s death last year through negligence.

The indictments were made public Tuesday in Garfield County District Court.

The state’s multicounty grand jury alleged in the indictments that Niles, 59, and the others caused the death of Anthony Huff by allowing the inmate “to remain in a restraint chair for over 48 hours without adequate food or water.”

The sheriff — first elected in 2012 — pleaded not guilty Tuesday in his first court appearance and was led from the courthouse in handcuffs. Bail was set at $5,000.

The other defendants all worked at the jail at the time of the death.

They are identified in the indictments as Vanisa Jo Gay, 38, a nurse; John Robert Markus, 29, assistant jail administrator; Lela June Goatley, 57, a nurse practitioner; Shawn Caleb Galusha, 37, a detention officer/supervisor; and Jennifer Niles, 34, then the jail administrator.

Jennifer Niles is the sheriff’s daughter-in-law. She no longer works at the jail, authorities said.

The grand jury handed down the indictments Thursday. The maximum punishment for second-degree manslaughter is four years in prison and a $1,000 fine.

The grand jury did not seek Niles’ ouster so he remains in control of the sheriff’s office and the jail for now, despite the indictment.

Huff, 58, of Enid, was pronounced dead at the jail June 8, 2016, after being found unresponsive in the restraint chair, records show.

He had been jailed four days earlier on a public intoxication complaint, records show. He was placed in the restraint chair on June 6, 2016, after he began hallucinating.

“It’s an ongoing investigation,” said Chris Boring, the district attorney who presented evidence to the grand jury.

Huff died from complications of his chronic alcoholism, the pathologist who did an autopsy concluded.

His estate in June filed a federal civil rights lawsuit over the death. Attorneys for the estate allege in the lawsuit that Huff “died due to conditions related to his withdrawal from alcohol and the effects it had on his body and system.”

The estate is suing the sheriff, Garfield County commissioners and others for actual and punitive damages. The lawsuit is pending in federal court in Oklahoma City.

The inmate’s family on Tuesday thanked the grand jury and the district attorney.

“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” said Eddie Wyant, one of the attorneys for Huff’s estate.

The sheriff has denied in the lawsuit that he violated Anthony Huff’s rights “in any way whatsoever.”

Boring was appointed by the attorney general’s office in October to oversee the investigation. He is the district attorney for Woodward, Woods, Dewey, Alfalfa and Major counties.

Garfield County District Attorney Mike Fields disqualified himself in September from involvement in the investigation because by law he advises the sheriff on legal matters.

The initial court appearances for the sheriff and four of the other defendants took a weird turn when the power went off inside the courtroom and other buildings downtown.

The defendants had to make their way to the courtroom through darkened hallways. Deputies opened the blinds in the courtroom so the judge, district attorney and defense lawyers could proceed.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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