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Former Oklahoma inmates sue jailers for "torture" after allegedly being forced to listen to "Baby Shark" on repeat

Posted at 3:06 PM, Nov 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 17:06:56-04

A group of former inmates filed a civil lawsuit this week against Oklahoma county authorities, alleging that they were "tortured" by jail officials who made them listen to the children's song "Baby Shark" for hours while incarcerated. The lawsuit comes after two jail officials and their supervisor were criminally charged last year over the alleged conduct, The Associated Press reported.

Daniel Hedrick, Joseph Mitchell and John Basco alleged in the civil suit that during separate instances in November and December 2019, they were taken from their cells at the Oklahoma County Detention Center by two officers, forced into a "standing stress position" with their arms handcuffed behind their back, and were forced to listen to "Baby Shark" repeatedly for hours. They alleged that the "volume of the song was so loud that it was reverberating down the hallways."

The suit described the conduct as "tantamount to torture," calling the the two officers "wanton, depraved and sadistic." The suit noted that heavy metal music had been played at Guantanamo Bay "as an 'enhanced interrogation' technique to weaken Iraqi captives' resolve," and cited academic research into why the "Baby Shark" song is particularly irritating, especially when repeated.

The Oklahoma County Sheriff's office, which is responsible for the management and operation of the jail and is named in the suit as a defendant, did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment.

In October 2020, the two former jail employees named in the suit were charged with misdemeanor counts of cruelty to a prisoner and conspiracy in connection with Hedrick, Mitchell and Basco's claims, The Associated Press reported. The employees were also accused of the same conduct with another former inmate who did not join the civil suit. That trial is scheduled for February.

"It was unfortunate that I could not find a felony statute to fit this fact scenario," Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said at the time, according to the AP. "I would have preferred filing a felony on this behavior."

The two employees resigned during an internal investigation, the sheriff told the AP. A supervisor accused of permitting their behavior retired.