Ex-inmates claim deputies made them 'ride the lightning' before they could join work crew

VERNAL — Uintah County Sheriff Jeff Merrell has requested an independent investigation into claims that two of his corrections deputies forced inmates to endure electrical shocks if they wanted to join an inmate work crew.

"I've already contacted an outside agency (to investigate)," Merrell told the Deseret News. "If there were practices going on that we did not know about, we want those practices ceased."

"Not to say that there were any of these practices taking place, because I don't know," he added. "I just heard about this this morning."

The sheriff's comments came Friday, one day after attorneys for Qaiyim A. Hill and Richard Anthony Uribe filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court. The suit names the state of Utah, the Utah Department of Corrections, two of Merrell's deputies and a number of "John Does" as defendants.

In their complaint, Hill and Uribe claim two deputies told them they had to "ride the lightning" as an initiation before they could go out as part of a six-man crew on work details around the county.

"Apparently 'riding the lightning' meant that each inmate would have to grab a metal hook in each hand, which were fashioned to look like horns, and these horns in turn were attached to what appeared to be a car battery," the lawsuit states.  More

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