Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office employees omitted testimony given by a former detention officer in investigations over Elliott Williams’ 2011 death in Tulsa’s jail, attorneys for his estate said in court Friday.
Tammy Hanley, the former officer, gave three interviews to Sheriff’s Office employees shortly after Williams died, records show. The agency either muted or deleted the first 13 minutes of one interview and the audio from an additional one is missing entirely, said Dan Smolen, an attorney representing Williams’ estate.
Attorneys for Williams’ estate presented the findings Friday on the 13th day of a civil trial over his death. Former Sheriff Stanley Glanz and current Sheriff Vic Regalado are the defendants in the lawsuit alleging Williams’ Eighth and 14th Amendment rights were violated when he died in the jail from complications of a broken neck.
The jail’s former medical provider, Correctional Healthcare Companies Inc., settled with Williams’ estate and is no longer a defendant.
U.S. District Judge John Dowdell reviewed the findings before the nine jurors entered the courtroom. He ruled because a portion of the interview was missing, defense attorneys could no longer reference it.
Hanley testified in the trial about Williams’ death on Thursday. Defense attorneys spent most of their cross-examination impeaching Hanley over statements made in the Sheriff’s Office investigations.
Guy Fortney, an attorney for the Sheriff’s Office, asked Hanley on Thursday why she didn’t mention concerns she had about Williams’ during investigations by the agency’s internal affairs and criminal investigations division.
Hanley had told the court Capt. Tommy Fike and Sgt. Doug Hinshaw dropped Williams in a shower in the jail’s medical unit, his head hitting the ground first. Williams cried out in pain, she said.
Fortney was critical that Hanley didn’t mention the incident during an interview in a criminal investigation conducted by Detective Jeremy Yerton and Detective Eric Kitch. Hanley has maintained the incident was mentioned.
More than 10 minutes of Hanley’s interview with detectives was either muted or deleted. In an audio clip played in court Friday, the first 13 minutes of the interview are silent.
Hanley’s voice can then be heard, saying “They took (Williams) out of the shower, put him back on the gurney, they didn’t dry him off or anything …”
Listen to the audio of Tammy Henley’s interview with TCSO detectives, which is missing the first 13 minutes.
Smolen pointed out the audio starts just after Hanley is finishing her testimony about Williams’ shower and the interview does not begin with a question from detectives as other conducted interviews did.
Hanley testified she told detectives about the shower incident among other concerns over Williams’ treatment by staff in those missing 13 minutes.
She also said she testified she overheard Fike or Hinshaw say, “This is a crazy n*gger,” as they put Williams in the shower.
The audio from an Oct. 31, 2011, interview between former Sheriff’s Office employee Billy McKelvey is apparently missing in its entirety. McKelvey conducted an investigation into Williams’ death and completed an internal report with his findings.
Asked why the interview was missing, Hanley said because Sheriff’s Office employees “don’t want it out.”
McKelvey held another interview with Hanley in December. During cross-examination, Fortney asked Hanley why she told McKelvey that Williams was laid in the shower instead of dropped.
The former detention officer said that’s what happened, and “laid” and “dropped” were interchangeable.
Hanley testified on Thursday she begged her supervisors to send Williams to a hospital. Fortney pointed out she told Kitch in an interview that she never asked Fike to get Williams outside care.
Hanley is one of two detention officers fired following Williams’ death. She has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office, saying she was accused of falsifying logbooks but “adamantly disputes” that allegation.
Josh Turley, who has been the Sheriff’s Office risk manager since 2009, was the second witness to testify Friday.
In a meeting with CHC staff, Turley, former Undersheriff Tim Albin and an unnamed jail doctor, concerns were noted about the jail’s healthcare.
“Williams not acceptable,” it states. Another line says, “Class action suit possible.”
Turley said Williams’ death wasn’t acceptable because someone died in the jail.
Turley testified he didn’t remember much from the meeting or whether it was a result of Williams’ death. But he recalled the purpose of the meeting was to address deficiencies in the jail’s health care with CHC.
The document also stated: “If TCSO has to we will utilize our ability to exercise and out of the contract option.”
Asked why the Sheriff’s Office didn’t seek to terminate the contract with the medical provider, Turley said the agency switched providers in 2012.
Smolen pointed to reviews from consultants in 2009 and 2011, that warn of inadequacies in CHC’s health care.
Asked why he didn’t seek to terminate the contract as the Sheriff’s Office risk manager, Turley said he couldn’t make that decision, but the sheriff could.
“As a result, 30 inmates died?” Smolen asked of CHC keeping its contract.
“I don’t know,” Turley replied.
An investigation by The Frontier found that at least 30 people have died in Tulsa’s jail or shortly after being transported to a hospital since 2006. Of those, Williams’ death is among 10 cases identified by medical experts as possibly or likely preventable if jail and medical staff followed jail standards, auditors’ recommendations and their own policies.
Asked in cross-examination whether he observed an attitude of indifference among jail staff, Turley said no.
The memo also states, “(TCSO) should not have to monitor CHC and its actions.”
Smolen asked Turley why the Sheriff’s Office stated it wasn’t responsible for overseeing its medical contract and ensuring adequate health care when the 2005 contract between the agency and the provider stated otherwise.
“TCSO is charged with the responsibility for administering, managing and supervising the health care delivery system of the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center,” the contract says.
In the beginning of his testimony, Turley said the Sheriff’s Office wasn’t responsible for monitoring the provider. However, after seeing the 2005 contract in court he reconsidered.
Smolen asked Turley whether if he would have reviewed the contract’s conditions, 30 inmates might not have died.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
Smolen asked Turley about the Sheriff’s Office failing to fix problems with the provider and instead turning contract breaches into profit.
The 2010 contract between CHC and TCSO indicates the provider would be required to pay Tulsa County $25,000 if medical staffing fell below 90 percent. If staffing was below that threshold for 30 days, the contractor had to pay an additional $2,000 for each day until staff levels rose to at least 90 percent.
Other parts of the contract fined CHC for not completing health screenings and services in a timely manner.
Turley said he wouldn’t consider the money profit, but penalties if CHC didn’t meet the requirements of the contract. The money wouldn’t be paid directly to the Sheriff’s Office, but to Tulsa County as a whole, he said.
Asked why the Sheriff’s Office was incentivizing poor health care for inmates, Turley said he didn’t know and wasn’t familiar with those portions of the contract. He again noted the point of the fines was to give CHC a reason to keep staffing levels high.
Smolen then asked whether Turley believed the contract’s “incentives” contributed to the death of Williams.
“I don’t know,” he answered.