JAY — A former Delaware County jail inmate has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against sheriff's department employees, alleging they allowed another inmate to sexually assault her while she was intoxicated and handcuffed outside a jail cell.
Heather Blackfox, 31, of Kansas, Okla., filed a complaint March 2 in U.S. District Court against Delaware County Sheriff Harlan Moore. Also named are jail administrator Chance Wynn and former employees Adiel Garcia and Shanna Stanley.
The alleged incident happened Feb. 6, 2016.
Stanley and Garcia left the sheriff's office on Feb. 8, 2016 and Feb. 29, 2016, respectively.
The lawsuit claims George Scott, an inmate trustee, forced Blackfox to “fondle him” when she was intoxicated and handcuffed to the outside of a jail cell.
Moore declined to comment on the complaint on the advice of his lawyer.
According to a tort claim filed in June 2016 with the Delaware County Commission, an intoxicated Blackfox was taken from her home to the jail on Feb. 6, 2016 on an outstanding warrant for bail jumping.
Rather than being held in a separate cell for intoxicated inmates, Blackfox remained handcuffed on the outside of the cell for more than three hours, the complaint states.
A bench warrant was issued in Delaware County District Court in January 2017 for Blackfox’s arrest on failure to fines pay in connection with the charges. According to court records, that warrant remains outstanding as of press time.
When contacted, Daniel Sadler, Blackfox’s attorney said he had no information on Blackfox’s criminal case.
More about the suit
Blackfox gave county officials a notice of intent to file the $1 million tort claim through a letter provided to the county on June 8, 2016, through her attorneys Sadler with the Sadler Law Firm of Oklahoma City and Richard M. Whalen and Andrew Doney with Doney & Whalen in Miami.
While the tort claim listed $1 million in damages, the suit filed this month in federal court does not specifically indicated a dollar amount.
Initially, Delaware County District Attorney Kenny Wright told The Grove Sun another inmate had reported the incident, which involved sexual activity but not intercourse, to jail authorities.
However, on Wednesday, June 22, Wright said a complete review of the information involving the claim indicated Blackfox disclosed information about the assault to a jailer approximately one week after the incident.
"She told the jailer a story about what happened," Wright said. "That she performed the act, and she was in fear [at the time]."
Wright said the jailer disclosed to a superior officer about the report of the incident.
During a second interview, with a Captain Gayle Wells, with the Delaware County Sheriff's Criminal Investigations Division, Wright said Blackfox once again reported that while she did participate in the act, she did so "in fear from the particular inmate."
Wright said the interview did not come to a natural conclusion, because Blackfox "voluntarily ended" the interview with the detective.
Wright said Wells concluded the investigation and submitted information to the district attorney's office.
"My office made the decision there was not enough evidence to support a 'reasonable likelihood of conviction'," Wright said. "So no charges were filed."
In June, Wright declined to name the male inmate involved in the incident.
At the time the lawsuit was filed, Wright said in order to be successful in the tort claim, Blackfox will still have to prove "force or fear" took place during the incident and that it occurred out of "negligence by the sheriff's office."
Unlike in a criminal case, Wright said, where the district attorney has to prove a case by reasonable doubt, a tort claim is solved by a "preponderance of evidence."
Wright said Blackfox will have to prove, by at least 51-percent, that this was a sexual assault due to "force or fear" and that it was because of negligence on the part of the sheriff's office employees.
About the Claim
The letter indicates Blackfox is seeking “damages because of the employees/officers failure to protect” and that the “county’s/county jail’s/sheriff’s policies or customs of habitual understaffing and negligent training of the employees/officers” caused “including, but not limited to mental and emotional pain and suffering and loss of spousal consortium.”
The letter indicated, at the time of the tort claim, that Blackfox was seeking $1 million for “the blatant violations of her state and federal rights” and that she may seek punitive damages for “reckless disregard of her rights.”
Blackfox was arrested on May 27, 2014 by Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Gibe for driving under the influence of alcohol – an aggravated misdemeanor, driving while suspended or canceled – a misdemeanor, failure to maintain security – a misdemeanor, and failure to pay all taxes to the state – a misdemeanor.
On July 31, 2015, a bench warrant was issued for Blackfox’s arrest and her bond was doubled after she failed to appear for a court hearing on the charges.
Court records indicate Blackfox was charged with felony bail jumping on Dec. 22, 2015. She appeared in court on those charges on Feb. 8, 2016, under the representation of a court appointed lawyer, Kathy Baker. She was released on a $3,000 bond on Feb. 17, 2016.
Editor's Note: While the Grove Sun does not identify victims of sexual assault during criminal actions, because this is a civil lawsuit all parties are named. The story has also been corrected online to indicate that while Blackfox's tort claim listed $1 million in damages, her federal lawsuit, filed earlier this month, does not list a specific monetary amount.
Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller contributed to this article.