Kevin L. Groom Sr, 45, a correctional officer with the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La., pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge James J. Brady for the Middle District of Louisiana for his role in covering up an incident in which correctional officers used excessive force against an inmate. Groom admitted filing a false report and subsequently providing false information to the FBI about the incident. Investigation of the incident is ongoing.
“The vast majority of American law enforcement officers conduct themselves with honor,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “But the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute those officers responsible for the deprivation of the rights of inmates, including those officers who file false reports to actively obstruct investigations into the violation of inmate rights.”
According to the factual basis filed in connection with his guilty plea, on or about Jan. 24, 2010, Groom, then a major at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, West Feliciana Parish, La., was on duty when he heard over the radio that an inmate had escaped from his assigned location. Shortly thereafter, the inmate surrendered to prison officials. When Groom encountered him, the inmate was cuffed with his hands behind his back and in the custody of two officers. The inmate and the two officers were in the back of a pick-up truck. Three high-ranking prison officials were standing by the truck. One of these high-ranking officials grabbed the inmate’s head and slammed it against the truck. The two officers in the back of the truck also struck the inmate. At that time, one of the high-ranking prison officials ordered Groom to join the two officers on the back of the truck to escort the inmate to the medical unit. During the drive to the medical unit, the other two officers struck the inmate, who presented no threat and who was lying on his stomach, with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Groom, who had the highest rank among the three officers on the back of the truck, admitted that he did not stop the assault. Groom also admitted that during the prison’s investigation of this incident, he wrote and submitted a false report denying that officers assaulted the inmate, and that he provided that same false information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Groom pleaded guilty to falsification of records in a federal investigation and to making a false statement to the FBI. As a result of his guilty pleas, Groom faces a maximum sentence of 25 years, a fine of up to $500,000, or both.
U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., said, “Law enforcement officers often act as our heroes in protecting us every day; so when some violate their duties to the public, it is a sad day. They must and will be held accountable, and this plea is a step forward in securing justice in this case.”
The investigation in this matter was conducted by Special Agent Taneka Harris of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney AeJean (Angie) Cha and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert W. Piedrahita.