A mother filed civil claims on Tuesday against a Muskogee child care facility and a former employee whose four felony child abuse charges were dismissed because the state lacked jurisdiction.
Hannah Long filed the civil lawsuit in Muskogee County District Court individually and on behalf of her child, who was 13 months old when Long learned of the alleged injuries in August 2019. She alleges in her petition that Rebecca Isham "repeatedly placed a blanket or cover over" the child's head and "physically restrained" her "during 'nap time.'"
Isham, who according to Long's petition was classified as "teaching personnel" at Oak Tree Academy, allegedly "assaulted and battered" the child "multiple times" and "verbally abused" her. Long also names Oak Tree Academy LLC as a defendant, alleging it is liable for the negligence of its employees.
Debbie Martin, owner of the limited liability company, said she "had no idea" about "what was going on" but acknowledged Isham "went against some DHS regulations."
"That child was not hurt in any way, shape or form," Martin said. "I had no idea what was going on — I guess she (Long) has to do what she has do, and we will deal with it."
Rusty Smith, a local lawyer who is representing Long, states in the petition that Isham and Oak Tree Academy are liable for failing to exercise the ordinary care required to avoid injury to another. He alleges the company also was negligent for failing to "properly supervise and train Isham and negligent for hiring her due to a prior record of misconduct.
“The hardest thing about this case is that the child was just a year old — she couldn’t speak up for herself, and she couldn’t describe her suffering to her mother," Smith said Tuesday after the petition was filed. "That’s just a terrible thing to process as a parent."
Smith said children like his client's daughter "need a voice when adults fail them." He said it was fortunate for Long and her child "that a good Samaritan stepped forward to alert Hannah to what was going on at the day care."
"Without that, this may have never come to light,” Smith said.
In addition to seeking damages for injuries resulting from the alleged negligence of Isham and Oak Tree Academy, Long is seeking damages as a "bystander." Smith alleges his client's status is unique based on the fact that she viewed "surveillance footage onsite at the day care" while police were on the scene to investigate a complaint.
Isham was charged with four felony counts of child abuse. Court records show she was bound over to stand trial in February following a preliminary hearing. Those charges were dismissed in September on jurisdictional grounds following the Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma.
The court found the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation, as defined by 1830s-era treaties, still exists for purposes of federal criminal law. Federal law requires certain crimes committed by Native Americans on reservation land be prosecuted in federal court and some other crimes in tribal courts.