MYSTERY

Shady Sheriff Takes The Stand In Army Vet’s Jail Death

Army vet Elliott Williams spent his last days paralyzed on the floor of the Tulsa County jail—but an ex-sheriff testified that he didn’t review surveillance video of the death until years later.

Elliott Williams spent the last days of his life on the floor of a Tulsa County jail. The Oklahoma Army vet was paralyzed and, according to a federal lawsuit by his estate’s attorneys, no detention officers or medical staff came to his aid.

Instead, jailers allegedly mocked him and tossed food trays into his room, but they were just out of reach for the dying inmate. Workers then put Williams into a video-monitored cell, hoping to catch him faking his paralysis.

Williams was found dead on Oct. 27, 2011. The 37-year-old had no criminal record and was arrested during a mental breakdown at a Owasso hotel after his wife left him. He had only been charged with misdemeanor obstruction.

As The Daily Beast previously revealed, the jail’s own surveillance cameras captured the horrors of Williams’s final hours — footage that was released as part of a wrongful death lawsuit against the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.

But on Thursday, Tulsa’s former sheriff, Stanley Glanz, said he didn’t watch the video until a year-and-a-half later.

The revelation came during Glanz’s second day of testimony in the federal trial over Williams’s death. The proceedings, which began last week, stem from a civil complaint against Glanz and current Sheriff Vic Regalado, in his official capacity as a representative of the sheriff’s department. The jail’s private medical operator, also named in the complaint, settled out of court.

Glanz has previously testified that he didn’t see the Williams death video until the day before a 2013 deposition in the case.

And on Thursday, Glanz said he didn’t see anything in the footage indicating the inmate was in poor health. (For their part, defense attorneys have argued that the video failed to capture Williams allegedly moving around, drinking and eating.)

Glanz’s testimony suggested that he was unable to confront the failings of his own agency — lapses documented in several audits. And perhaps that he was unaware of what was happening inside the county lockup.

Weeks before Williams died, one review, from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, found “a prevailing attitude among clinic staff of indifference.”

When Dan Smolen, an attorney for Williams’s estate, asked Glanz about the finding, the former sheriff replied, “Yes, sir. They also say, facility is generally clean and well kept,” court transcripts show. The sheriff then added: “Nothing of immediate danger, but found some things needed corrected.”

Another 2007 review by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care found a “noted delay” in responding to routine mental health requests by inmates.

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!

Daily Digest

Start and finish your day with the top stories from The Daily Beast.

Cheat Sheet

A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know (and nothing you don't).

By clicking “Subscribe,” you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason.

Two years later, a 2009 report by consultant Betty Gondles warned the Tulsa sheriff’s office of systemic problems with the jail’s medical and mental health care. Those included a lack of training for new health staff and delays in inmates receiving medications.

The report, read aloud by Smolen in court, noted that many issues stemmed from a “lack of understanding of correctional health care issues by jail administration and contract oversight and monitoring of the private provider.”

The study recommended, among other things, the county to hire a director of health services to overlook the contract with the jail’s medical providers. But the sheriff’s office didn’t hire one until 2014. After a nurse took the job, she filed no reports in two years regarding inmate deaths and only one on the company’s care. At least seven inmates died since the nurse was hired as the medical watchdog, the Frontier reported.

Another 2010 audit from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care identified several deficiencies in the jail’s medical care, Smolen said.

Glanz testified that he didn’t read the entire audit until about three weeks ago. At the time, he discussed it with his undersheriff, who had read the report.

When asked why he waited to read the report until after he left office, Glanz replied, “to prepare for this trial.”

Meanwhile, the county’s 2010 contract renewal with its medical provider, Correctional Healthcare Companies Inc., required the employment of a full-time medical professional to also oversee the contract.

The sheriff’s office designated an existing employee, Capt. Rick Weigel, for the job despite his lack of medical training. Weigel’s wife, Glanz testified on Wednesday, was a nurse at a Tulsa hospital. “Whenever he had a question, he could actually ask his wife about is that a good decision or bad,” Glanz testified, according to court transcripts.

When asked why he didn’t hire a contract monitor until 2014, Glanz replied that his undersheriff was suppose to budget the position but never did.

Glanz testified that Weigel received training for his new role. Yet the statement allegedly contradicts Weigel’s 2013 deposition, when he testified that he was never trained and unaware his name was on the contract, according to Smolen.

Smolen asked Glanz about the discrepancy.

“Would that surprise you?” Smolen asked Glanz of Weigel’s deposition.

“Yes,” Glanz replied.

While the jail was beset with health care problems, Glanz was spending thousands in taxpayer dollars on training conferences.

Glanz spent hundreds of thousands for the training travel between 2009 and 2015, he admitted under questioning by Smolen.

Smolen noted that on one trip, Glanz spent $550 per night at a hotel, and forked over cash on a horse-drawn carriage, golf and afternoon tea. (Glanz testified that he didn’t remember having tea and wasn’t aware of the hotel cost. He said it was on only one occasion.)

In 2013 alone, sheriff’s employees spent about $170,000 on travel, Smolen said.

In response, Glanz said that the travel expenditures weren’t surprising, given the agency’s $40-million budget at the time.

The Daily Beast has previously reported on the sheriff’s lavish vacations — not paid with taxpayer money, but from the coffers of a wealthy donor to the department. This benefactor, Robert Bates, also served a volunteer deputy on the force.

Bates made national headlines in April 2015, when he fatally shot an unarmed black man, 44-year-old Eric Harris, in an undercover drug bust. The grandpa deputy said he mistook his gun for a Taser when he fatally blasted Harris.

He was convicted of second-degree manslaughter one year later and sentenced to four years behind bars. He has filed for an appeal, which is pending.

Before Bates shot Harris, he treated the sheriff to exotic cruises and fishing trips. Back then, one former sheriff’s employee told The Daily Beast that the getaways were part of the agency’s “typical Southern good ol’ boys system.”

Glanz defended Bates, who was once his insurance agent and campaign chair, when critics accused him of giving the reserve deputy special treatment in return for his donations to the department.

“Bob and I both love to fish,” Glanz told the Tulsa World at the time. “Is it wrong to have a friend?”

The sheriff resigned in late 2015 after a grand jury indicted him on two misdemeanors relating to abuse of office.

Last year, Glanz pleaded guilty to "willful violation of the law” for allegedly accepting a $600 travel stipend while using a county vehicle.

He pleaded no contest to “refusal to perform an official duty” for denying requests to release a 2009 internal probe into Bates.

As part of his plea deal, Glanz received concurrent, one-year suspended sentences and a year of unsupervised probation. He was also ordered to pay $7,500 in restitution to the prosecuting attorney’s office.

Reporters Ziva Branstetter and Kassie McClung of The Frontier, a nonprofit news startup based in Tulsa, contributed to this report. For additional coverage on the Elliott Williams trial, please visit Readfrontier.org.