WASHINGTON – A federal jury in Jacksonville, Fla., found Paul Tillis, a former Florida Department of Corrections officer, guilty on Jan. 16, 2009, of a felony federal civil rights violation for an August 2005 assault on an inmate.
The evidence at trial showed that on Aug. 14, 2005, Tillis assaulted the victim by pouring a bottle of scalding water onto the victim’s chest. Tillis was on duty as a supervisory corrections officer at the Florida State Prison in Raiford. During his shift, one of the inmates in his custody allegedly feigned injury by lying on the floor of his cell. In response, the defendant filled a bottle from a nearby dispenser that provided water at near-boiling temperatures, then poured the scalding water onto the victim’s chest. Tillis also failed to arrange for medical treatment for the victim, who suffered second degree burns on his chest as a result of this assault.
"It is important that corrections officers realize they may not use their positions of authority to inflict physical harm on inmates as punishment," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King for the Civil Rights Division. "While the vast majority of law enforcement officers carry out their difficult duties in a lawful and professional manner, the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute those who cross the line and commit this type of unlawful act."
Tillis faces a maximum punishment of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled by the court.
This case was investigated by agents from the FBI’s Jacksonville Division and the Florida Office of the Inspector General. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mac Heavener of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Douglas Kern.
The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as those laws that prohibit the willful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement and other government officials. In FY2008, the Criminal Section filed the largest-ever number of federal criminal civil rights cases in a single year in the Section’s history, and the second-highest ever number of official misconduct prosecutions.