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Press Release

Former Alabama Correctional Lieutenant Indicted for Allowing Inmate Abuse

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department today announced that a Federal Grand Jury sitting in Montgomery, Alabama, returned a two-count indictment charging former Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) Lieutenant Willie Burks, 39, with failing to stop a sergeant under his command from kicking and striking with a baton a handcuffed and compliant inmate at ADOC’s Elmore Correctional Facility. Burks also was charged with making false statements to the federal grand jury in connection with the investigation.

Three former and current corrections officers have previously pleaded guilty in connection with this incident. Former Alabama Department of Corrections Sergeant Ulysses Oliver pleaded guilty to unlawfully assaulting two handcuffed inmates. Corrections Officers Briana Mosley and Leon Williams pleaded guilty for failing to intervene to prevent the abuse by former-Sergeant Oliver.

According to the prior guilty pleas, Oliver went to an observation room holding the two inmate victims, who were both handcuffed and sitting quietly. Oliver pulled the first victim from the observation room into an adjacent hallway, where he struck the victim multiple times with his fists and feet, and then used his collapsible baton to strike the victim approximately 19 times. After assaulting the first victim, Oliver returned to the observation room and pulled the second victim into the hallway. Oliver kicked the second victim and used his baton to strike the victim approximately 10 times. During the assaults, the victims were handcuffed, and were not resisting or posing a threat. After, Oliver returned to the observation room where the victims were held and shoved the tip of his baton into the face of one of the victims, lacerating the victim’s face. Oliver assaulted the victims as punishment because he believed that the victims had brought contraband into the facility. Oliver assaulted the victims in the presence of other ADOC correctional officers, who did not intervene to prevent the assaults.   

Burks faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. 

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Mobile Division and ADOC’s Investigations and Intelligence Division. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Baxley of the Middle District of Alabama, and Special Legal Counsel Mark Blumberg, Special Litigation Counsel Jared Fishman, and Trial Attorney David Reese of the Civil Rights Division.

Updated September 18, 2019

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 19-996