WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that former Wilcox County, Ga., Jailer Casey Owens pleaded guilty to a misprision of a felony in connection with an incident in which several people, including law enforcement officials, assaulted three inmates inside of the Wilcox County Jail in Abbeville, Ga.
During his plea hearing yesterday and in his factual basis, Owens, 23, of Rhine, Ga., admitted he was present when several people, including then-Wilcox County Sheriff Stacy Bloodsworth and his son, Austin Bloodsworth, assaulted three inmates on July 23, 2009. As a result of the assaults, two of the inmates suffered scratches, bruises and pain, while the third inmate suffered a broken jaw. During the plea hearing, Owens further admitted that he and others were present when Stacy Bloodsworth concocted a false cover story in order to cover up the fact that law enforcement officials and others had used excessive force against the three inmates. Owens admitted that Stacy Bloodsworth instructed Owens and others to prepare reports memorializing the false cover story for Wilcox County Sheriff’s Office officials and to make statements consistent with the false cover story to anyone inquiring about the excessive use of force. Owens also acknowledged that, even though he knew about the assault of the inmates and the false story that Stacy Bloodsworth concocted to cover up the involvement of law enforcement officers, he concealed his knowledge of the assaults by writing a false statement to be included in the Wilcox County Sheriff’s Office report about the incident. Further, Owens did not, as soon as possible, tell a federal judge or a federal agent that law enforcement officials and others had conspired to cover up the assault of the three inmates.
“The vast majority of American law enforcement officers conduct themselves with honor. But when an officer violates his or her oath and breaks the law, the Department of Justice stands ready to enforce the law and protect the civil rights of all Americans,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
“When an officer abuses his authority, he brings shame on the men and women in uniform who honorably protect and serve us all. My office will aggressively defend the civil rights of all people, and will just as vigorously prosecute those who violate them,” said U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Michael Moore.
When Owens is sentenced, he faces a maximum penalty of up to three years in prison.
On Feb. 17, 2012, the Justice Department unsealed a 14-count indictment against Stacy Bloodsworth; Austin Bloodsworth; Owens; and former Wilcox County Jail Trustee Willie James Caruthers. The indictment charges the four defendants with civil rights violations in connection with the July 23, 2009, assault of the three inmates and with conspiring to cover up the assaults. In addition, the indictment charges Stacy Bloodsworth, Austin Bloodsworth and Caruthers with lying to the FBI, and it charges Caruthers and Owens with writing false reports. Stacy Bloodsworth was also charged with tampering with one of the victims, as well as with tampering with two witnesses. In May 2012, the grand jury returned a superseding indictment, which, in addition to the civil rights and obstruction of justice charges stemming from the July 23, 2009, assaults, also charges Stacy Bloodsworth with violating the civil rights of individuals on two other occasions. The superseding indictment charges Stacy Bloodsworth with assaulting a Wilcox County Jail inmate in July 2009, causing him to suffer a laceration and pain, and with assaulting another inmate in November 2009, causing him to suffer a concussion, bruising and pain.
On April 4, 2012, Caruthers pleaded guilty to acting with several others, including law enforcement officials, to assault an inmate inside of the Wilcox County Jail on July 23, 2009. Caruthers also pleaded guilty to conspiring to tamper with a witness in connection with the assault. During his plea hearing and in his factual basis, Caruthers admitted that he, along with several other individuals, including then-Sheriff Stacy Bloodsworth, assaulted a Wilcox County inmate, causing the inmate to suffer a broken jaw. Caruthers acknowledged that he was present when several individuals, including Stacy Bloodsworth, assaulted two other inmates, causing both of them to sustain bruises, scratches and pain. During the plea hearing, Caruthers further admitted he conspired with several other people, including Stacy Bloodsworth, to cover up the fact that law enforcement officials and others had used excessive force against the three inmates. Caruthers acknowledged that the plan of the conspiracy was for the co-conspirators to prepare false reports and submit them to Wilcox County Sheriff’s Office officials, and to make statements consistent with those false reports to anyone inquiring about the excessive use of force incident. When Caruthers is sentenced, he faces a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison on the civil rights violation, and a maximum penalty of up to five years on the conspiracy charge.
On March 5, 2012, former South Central Georgia Drug Task Force Agent Timothy King Jr., 31, pleaded guilty to an information charging him with conspiring to tamper with a witness in connection with the July 23, 2009, assaults of three inmates. During his plea hearing, King admitted that he conspired with several other people, including a law enforcement official, to cover up the fact that law enforcement officials and others had used excessive force against the three inmates. When King is sentenced, he faces a maximum penalty of five years.
The civil rights charges against Stacy Bloodsworth and Austin Bloodsworth carry a maximum penalty of 10 years for each count, and the conspiracy and false statements charges carry a maximum penalty of up to five years. Additionally, Stacy Bloodsworth faces a maximum penalty of 20 years for each count of witness tampering. An indictment is only an accusation, and the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial.
This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Christine M. Siscaretti and Special Litigation Counsel Gerard V. Hogan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.