Deputy Sheriff Convicted for Withholding Evidence Favorable to a Defendant
Three Deputies Also Convicted of Obstructing Justice by Covering Up a Fellow Officer’s Use of Force
A federal jury in Albany, Georgia, today convicted three sheriff’s deputies on various federal offenses related to the cover-up of a 2012 incident in which a fourth deputy used force during the arrest of a civilian. The charges against Decatur County Captain Elizabeth Croley, Decatur County Deputy Christopher Kines and Decatur County Deputy Robert Wade Umbach related to a September 2012 incident in which former Grady County Deputy Sheriff Wiley Griffin, IV—who is the son of Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin, III— used force against Aaron Parrish during an arrest at the Bainbridge BikeFest. The jury found that Croley, Kines and Umbach obstructed justice when they later helped cover up defendant Griffin’s actions. Specifically, the jury convicted Croley of obstructing justice by writing a false report and convicted Kines and Umbach of engaging in misleading conduct by lying to an FBI agent about the incident. Croley was also convicted of violating Aaron Parrish’s constitutionally protected right to a fair trial by intentionally withholding material exculpatory evidence from the District Attorney’s Office, and, in turn from Aaron Parrish’s criminal defense attorney, during a criminal prosecution of Parrish arising out of the same BikeFest incident.
Croley, Kines and Umbach will be sentenced by the Honorable W. Louis Sands, Senior U.S.District Court Judge for the Middle District of Georgia, at a later date to be set by the court.
The same jury that convicted the three Decatur County officers of obstruction acquitted Griffin on a civil rights count charging him with having used excessive force against Parrish and acquitted Kines and Umbach of obstructing justice by writing false reports.
During a trial that lasted more than two weeks, the jury heard evidence that Griffin struck Parrish in the eye with a metal flashlight while Parrish was being restrained on the ground by other deputies, including Kines and Umbach. The government presented evidence that Captain Croley and Deputies Kines and Umbach then helped cover up the incident by, among other things, Croley writing a false report and Kines and Umbach misleading the FBI by stating that they did not see Griffin at the scene.
The government also presented evidence that, after Parrish complained to the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office about the abuse he had suffered at BikeFest, the Sheriff’s Office opened a criminal investigation led by Croley that eventually resulted in felony criminal charges against Parrish. During that investigation, Croley took a witness statement from a civilian eyewitness who provided information that would have been materially helpful to Parrish’s defense. However, rather than providing that statement to the District Attorney so that it could then be provided to Parrish’s defense attorney for use at trial, Croley intentionally removed the exculpatory statement from the case file. This conduct formed the basis of the civil rights charge on which defendant Croley was convicted.
At sentencing, Croley will face a maximum sentence of 20 years for her false report and one year for the civil rights violation involving hiding exculpatory evidence. Kines and Umbach face maximum sentences of 20 years for making misleading statements to the FBI.
“As the jury recognized through its verdict, there are serious consequences when law enforcement officers lie to cover up the misconduct of a fellow officer and when an officer intentionally stacks the deck against an accused person by hiding evidence that could show the person’s innocence,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “When officers engage in this type of outrageous behavior, the Department of Justice stands ready to enforce the law and protect the civil rights of all Americans.”
“This case reflects that the rule of law applies to all and that the FBI will present for prosecution the facts as it finds them,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI Atlanta Field Office. “Today's verdicts conclude an extensive investigation and prosecution that needed to be heard and the FBI is satisfied that it was."
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Christine M. Siscaretti and Risa Berkower of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, with support from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.