WASHINGTON – A federal jury in New Bern, N.C., today found former federal corrections officers Willie Powell and Marquis Young guilty of a felony federal civil rights offense for assaulting an inmate in their custody, and of three related charges for attempting to cover up their illegal use of force, the Justice Department announced. The defendants face a maximum potential punishment of 25 years imprisonment. A sentencing date has not yet been determined.
The evidence at trial showed that on March 26, 2006, Powell and Young and other officers assaulted inmate Demarrieo Davis at the Rivers Correctional Facility in Winton, N.C., to punish Davis for an earlier verbal altercation. During this assault, the defendants repeatedly punched and kicked Davis, including striking him after he was restrained. Shortly thereafter, Powell and Young conspired with other officers to compose and submit false use of force reports to conceal the attack. Later, on May 24, 2006, Powell and Young gave false statements to Department of Justice special agents in an attempt to hide the assault. In related cases, fellow former officers Christopher Conner and Travis Ruffin have pleaded guilty for their roles in the beating of Davis and the subsequent cover-up.
“While the vast majority of law enforcement officers carry out their difficult duties in a professional manner, the Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute those who cross the line and commit this type of unlawful act,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
This case was investigated by Special Agents Lonnie Davis and Susan Howell from the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, and was prosecuted by John Richmond and Jared Fishman from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
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 officials. In Fiscal Year 2007, the Criminal Section convicted the highest number of defendants in its history, surpassing the record previously set in Fiscal Year 2006. The Division has compiled a significant record on criminal civil rights law enforcement prosecutions. During the last seven years, the Criminal Section obtained convictions of 53 percent more defendants (391 v. 256) in law enforcement prosecutions than the previous seven years.