Two former Oklahoma jail officers sued for allegedly forcing inmates to listen to "Baby Shark" for hours as punishment were put on probation for two years.
Oklahoma County Special Judge Martha Oakes handed down the order Thursday after Christian Charles Miles and Gregory Cornell Butler Jr. pleaded no contest to misdemeanor cruelty to a prisoner, court records show. They were also charged with conspiracy, but prosecutors dismissed the charge.
A federal civil rights lawsuit four inmates filed in 2021 accused Miles and Butler of using excessive force and discipline tactics described as "torture events."
Inmates John Basco and Daniel Hedrick alleged that they were forced to stand in a stress position while listening to "Baby Shark" at different times in late 2019. The suit describes the standing stress position as being left to stand for hours in handcuffs. Basco died about a year after the suit was filed after he was found unresponsive in his cell. Officials later determined that he died from an accidental fentanyl overdose, according to NBC affiliate KFOR of Oklahoma City.
Another prisoner, Joseph Mitchell, said he was pulled from his cell in November 2019 and placed in a room where he was forced into a "standing stress position" for three to four hours while he was handcuffed behind his back, according to the lawsuit.
Officers then played "Baby Shark" on repeat so loud "that it was reverberating down the hallways," it said.
“Baby Shark” exploded in popularity in 2019, when it entered the Billboard chart at No. 32 for the week of Jan. 12. The song’s streaming growth was credited for its landing at the spot, Billboard said.
Ja’Lee Foreman Jr., another inmate, said in the suit that he was not forced to listen to the song but was placed in a stress position and then kneed in the back and slammed into a wall by Miles. Foreman alleged that Miles spat on him as Butler laughed.
The suit said the inmates were pretrial detainees at the Oklahoma County jail and posed no threat to the officers.
Miles and Butler resigned after the lawsuit was filed. A lieutenant, Christopher Raymond Hendershott, was named in the suit and accused of failing to intervene. Hendershott, who retired, was charged with four cruelty counts and a conspiracy count; the charges were dismissed.
In addition to probation, Miles and Butler must complete 40 hours of community service, and they were fined $200 and ordered to pay $300 in victims’ compensation. They are also no longer allowed to work in law enforcement, the court records state.
Butler's attorney, Lance Phillips, said his client is "happy this matter is behind him." If Butler remains out of trouble while on probation, he will not have a misdemeanor conviction on his record, Phillips said Wednesday.
Miles' attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.