A group of former inmates has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Oklahoma County authorities alleging they were ‘tortured’ by jail officials who made them listen to Baby Shark on repeat.
In the lawsuit, Daniel Hendrick, Joseph Mitchell, and John Basco allege that they were taken from their cells at the Oklahoma County Detention Center by two officers, put in a ‘standing stress position’ with their arms handcuffed behind their backs, and were then forced to listen to the popular children’s song on a loop for hours.
The suit called the conduct ‘tantamount to torture,’ and said the two police officers involved, Christian Charles Miles and Gregory Cornell Butler Jr., were ‘wanton, depraved and sadistic.’
It compared the conduct to the heavy metal music played at Guantanamo Bay ‘as an “enhanced interrogation” technique to weaken Iraqi captives’ resolve, and cited academic studies as to why the Baby Shark song by Pinkfong, which went viral in 2019, is particularly irritating, CBS News reported.
The civil rights lawsuit names Oklahoma County Sheriff Tommie Johnson III, county commissioners, and the jail trust, as well as Miles and Butler, as defendants.
In the lawsuit, lawyers for the since-released inmates claimed that they ‘posed no threat to the officers or anyone else,’ were ‘compliant,’ and were ‘not actively resisting any lawful command’ when they were forced to listen to the music in November and December 2019.
The lawyers argue that the ‘prolonged restraint … under the conditions described herein, is tantamount to torture, was excessive and not rationally related to any legitimate governmental or penological purpose.’
They also added that a fourth former detainee who signed onto the lawsuit, Ja’Lee Foreman Jr., was spared from the looping music when the officers allegedly got distracted by another incident at the jail.
But, the lawsuit claims, Foreman was instead subjected to unwarranted verbal and physical assault.
It says that on November 2, 2019, officers ‘accosted’ Foreman, who was only 18 at the time and ‘small in stature,’ ‘without provocation,’ the Washington Post reports.
It alleges that Miles taunted and yelled obscenities at Foreman, and threatened to beat him saying: ‘I’m going to make sure you live in hell.’
Still, the lawsuit claims, Foreman managed to remain calm out of fear that the verbal assault would become physical.
At that point, the lawsuit alleges that officers handcuffed Foreman and took him out f his cell and into another jail area where they sat him on a bench and secured him to a bar behind his back for over an hour a half.
‘After removing the handcuffs, Officer Miles, in the presence of Officer Butler, drove his knee into Mr. Foreman’s back as he slammed into the wall of his cell,’ the lawsuit alleges.
‘As Mr. Foreman turned around, Officer Miles then spit into Mr. Foreman’s face. Both Officer Miles and Officer Butler laughed at Mr. Foreman as they left the cell pod.’
The suit further claims: ‘This history of mistreatment was well known to supervisors at the Jail, but no action was taken to stop the conduct and no reasonable measures were taken to alleviate the risk of harm to detainees like Plaintiffs.’
It claims these actions were ‘open, obvious and repeated. Yet, no one from’ Oklahoma County, the sheriff’s office, and the criminal justice authority ‘stepped in to take remedial action.
‘This exemplifies a systemic and deep-seated failure to train and supervise, concerning the most basic aspects of correctional operations and constitutional conditions of confinement.’
Not addressing those issues, they added, made them ‘deliberately indifferent to citizens’ health and safety.’
The former detainees are seeking $75,000 in retribution, according to KFOR.
The popular children’s song went viral in 2019
The lawsuit comes one year after Miles and Butler were charged with four misdemeanor counts of cruelty to prisoners, corporal punishment to an inmate, and conspiracy.
The officers’ supervisor, Raymond Hendershott, was also charged for allegedly turning a blind eye to the behavior after he reportedly ignored 20 handwritten inmate complaints.
‘It was unfortunate that I could not find a felony statute to fit this fact scenario,’ District Attorney David Prater said at the time. ‘I would have preferred filing a felony on this behavior.’
According to an affidavit filed in the case, Miles admitted to working with Butler to ‘teach [the inmates] a lesson because they felt that disciplinary action within the Detention Center was not working in correcting’ their behavior.
The song was reported to be a joke between the two and Butler confirmed he had used the room ‘as a means of punishment’.
Miles and Butler resigned amid an internal investigation into the behavior, and Hendershott retired.
A trial is now scheduled for February. -Daily Mail