Oklahoma County has agreed to pay $275,000 to a former inmate who was beaten up by jailers while being booked on a complaint of driving under the influence in 2003.
Attorneys representing the county and Sheriff John Whetsel agreed in December to pay the money to Dionne A. McKinney. In exchange, she agreed to stop pursuing punitive damages for the incident.
The settlement amount was officially filed at the court clerk's office on Tuesday.
McKinney's attorney, Aletia H. Timmons, told jurors during a weeklong civil trial in December that her client was beaten by female officers after she asked to use the restroom.
Timmons said the officers slammed McKinney's head against a concrete wall and then threw her to the ground and kicked her. She said one of the officers rubbed McKinney's genitals when she was changing into orange coveralls, and then the officers made McKinney crawl from her cell to a holding room on her hands and knees.
Jurors on Dec. 17 found in favor of McKinney on two excessive-force claims against Whetsel, including negligent infliction of excessive force, and awarded her $39,000 in actual damages.
Jurors found in favor of McKinney on one of two identical claims against the Oklahoma County board of commissioners, but found in favor of Whetsel and the board on a third claim of failure to provide adequate medical care to McKinney.
Attorneys for Whetsel and the board accused McKinney of being uncooperative and of fabricating the incident in court.
Whetsel could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, and his attorney declined to comment. Timmons was also unavailable for comment.
A spokesman for Whetsel said use-of-force incidents at the jail have been reduced significantly — from hundreds to dozens each year — since the sheriff's office began making major operational reforms at the jail.
The reforms, which were spurred by a U.S. Department of Justice report in 2007, include increased surveillance cameras and staffing, as well as the installation of a new panel that reviews such incidents, sheriff's office spokesman Mark Myers said.
“Since we installed the cameras, acts of violence have decreased by 90 percent, and we started installing them in 2010,” Myers said. “Also in the past 10 years our training has changed tremendously in regards to use of force.”
Oklahoma County Treasurer Butch Freeman said county property owners will be liable for the $275,000, which will be paid in a lump sum out of the employee retirement fund and then replaced with ad valorem taxes over the next three years.
The owner of a $150,000 home might pay a nickel extra in taxes each year for three years to cover the settlement amount, he said.