- Two former jail guards were charged in 2020 after forcing inmates to listen to “Baby Shark” during discipline in 2019.
- The guards pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor cruelty counts.
- Three of the inmates filed a federal lawsuit over their mistreatment, but a judge ruled against them. An appeal is expected.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Two former Oklahoma County jail guards have pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor cruelty charge for forcing inmates to listen to “Baby Shark” as punishment.
Gregory Cornell Butler Jr. and Christian Charles Miles were put on probation for two years and fined $200.
They also were ordered to pay $300 in victims’ compensation and complete 40 hours of community service. They were also banned from working in law enforcement.
Both were charged after an investigation determined handcuffed inmates were forced to stand for long periods chained to a wall in the attorney visitation booth as discipline in 2019.
The two guards further mistreated inmates by playing children’s music loudly on a loop, investigators reported. Both resigned after coming under investigation.
The criminal case centered on four victims, but investigators believe there were more.
One victim said he had to listen to “Baby Shark” for two hours straight, according to an investigative report. Another said the “weird little song” was blaring and played “over and over and over again.”
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Guards admit to playing ‘Baby Shark’ during discipline
The case brought worldwide media attention to the troubled jail after The Oklahoman, part of the USA TODAY Network, first reported on it in October 2020.
Both Butler and Miles confirmed playing “Baby Shark” during the discipline, according to the report.
“That was a joke between Miles and I,” Butler said, according to the report.
The discipline had at one point involved children’s music featuring Elmo, the popular Sesame Street character. Another guard admitted he suggested to Miles playing “Baby Shark.”
Guards plead no contest
A jury trial in the misdemeanor case had been set to begin Monday.
Instead, Butler, 24, and Miles, 23, pleaded no contest Thursday to three misdemeanor cruelty counts.
Special Judge Martha Oakes imposed the sentences.
Oakes chose a type of probation that will leave them with no conviction on their record if they get in no further trouble.
Both also had been charged with conspiracy but prosecutors dropped that count.
Miles and other detention officers did the best they could to try to keep order “with the lack of leadership going on at the time,” his attorney, Michael Johnson, said.
“These inmates were winning the war at the jail,” his attorney said.
Children’s songs were played to calm inmates down, the attorney said. “It’s basically like a time out,” Johnson said.
Butler “is happy this matter is behind him,” his attorney, Lance Phillips, said.
Supervisor’s charges dismissed
Prosecutors also dismissed all misdemeanor counts against a supervisor.
Christopher Raymond Hendershott, a lieutenant at the jail, retired after coming under investigation. He had been charged with four cruelty counts and a conspiracy count.
Hendershott, now 52, was accused of failing to take proper action after learning of the discipline.
Federal appeal expected
Three of the “Baby Shark” inmates filed a federal lawsuit over their mistreatment, but a judge ruled against them. An appeal is expected now that the criminal case is complete.
One plaintiff, John Basco, died in the jail of a fentanyl overdose last September.
The fourth “Baby Shark” victim, Brandon Newell, agreed to be a witness in the federal lawsuit.
Newell said he was forced to listen to “Baby Shark” for popping out the door of his cell. “After the third repeat, I wanted to scream,” he told the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Cameron Spradling, in a letter.
“I was angry and humiliated,” Newell wrote.
At the time of the incidents, Sheriff P.D. Taylor was in charge of jail operations. A trust took over the jail July 1, 2020, and Taylor left office after losing reelection.
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