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Utah county ordered to pay damages to jailer fired 11 years ago

Posted at 7:09 PM, Jul 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-02 00:30:21-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The video shows Denile Gale rolling a cart to jail pod doors.

Then Gale opens a drawer in the cart and pops open some blister packs with prescription-strength ibuprofen.

“They ended up terminating me for, they said, dispensing five ibuprofen to inmates that had different things like broken molars,” Gale recently explained.

Almost eleven years later, a federal jury has ordered Uintah County to pay Gale $465,000 in damages.

“We were able to show that there were officers at Uintah County Jail who did things that were a lot more egregious than handing out ibuprofen and weren't fired,” said Gale’s attorney, April Hollingsworth.

That includes a peace officer who left a gun in a bathroom at a Halloween party attended by children, according to a court record.

Gale started as a corrections officer at the Uintah County jail in 1995. He was about three years from qualifying for retirement when he distributed the ibuprofen in October 2011.

Gale never denied distributing the pills. He said giving ibuprofen to inmates had been allowed for years.

His superiors said Gale violated policy by not getting permission from other medical staff.

The sheriff’s office conducted an investigation and the county held employment hearings. Hollingsworth would later argue the administrative process was a formality – that the sheriff and his top deputies had already decided to fire Gale.

“I believe there was an ulterior motive,” Gale said in an interview Wednesday.

Gale campaigned for the losing candidate in the prior sheriff election.

Gale filed suit in federal court in Salt Lake City. An attorney for Uintah County declined to comment to FOX 13, saying the judge is still hearing motions in the case. In court, the county has contended there’s no evidence of political retaliation and Gale received plenty of due process in the administrative hearings.

A jury in 2016 ruled against Gale. Then the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said the trial judge errored by not allowing testimony about Gale’s campaigning and other discipline cases at the jail.

Gale’s second trial ended last week. The jury again found no violation of Gale’s First Amendment rights, but, this time, the jury said Uintah County violated Gale’s due process rights.

The jury awarded Gale $415,000 in economic damages and $50,000 in what are called “non-economic damages.”

Hollingsworth said the amounts reflect, “lost wages and loss retirement benefits.”

Gale said he’s satisfied with the verdict.

“Don't give up,” he said. “Just, just keep fighting. If you feel that it is right, keep fighting and make it right."

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