Clay County Jail Administrator Indicted For Violating Inmates' Civil Rights
BIRMINGHAM -- A federal grand jury today indicted the former jail administrator of the Clay County Detention Center for violating the civil rights of four inmates by using his authority to sexually abuse or otherwise deprive the inmates of their constitutional rights, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard D. Schwein Jr.
An indictment filed in U.S. District Court charges JEFFREY SCOTT COTNEY, 48, of Ashland, with eight counts of deprivation of rights under color of law between May 2009 and spring 2010 while he worked as Clay County's jail administrator.
"It is unacceptable for law enforcement officers who are entrusted with police powers to sexually abuse inmates," Vance said. "People convicted of crimes are to be punished by the justice system according to the rule of law. They should not be subjected to a deprivation of their constitutional rights by one who abuses the power of his badge for personal gratification."
The first four counts of the indictment charge Cotney with coercing an inmate to submit to a sexual act on four separate dates between May 2009 and September 2009. Count Five charges Cotney with depriving that same inmate of his liberty, without due process of law, by withdrawing the inmate's application for acceptance into a community corrections program in Barbour County in order to keep the man confined in the Clay County Detention Center. Cotney falsely represented the inmate's interest in the community corrections program and withdrew his application for the program without the inmate's knowledge, according to the indictment.
Counts Six and Seven charge Cotney with directing two inmates, one in August 2009 and the other in spring 2010, to disrobe and then rubbing the tattoos on their bodies, thereby depriving them of their constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and to possess bodily privacy and integrity.
Count Eight charges Cotney with depriving a fourth inmate of his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by falsely accusing the inmate of possessing contraband, ordering him into lockdown for 45 days and having him transferred to a state prison, all in retaliation for the man rejecting a sexual proposition from Cotney.
Cotney could face a total of eight years in prison on all counts charged.
The FBI and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamarra Matthews Johnson is prosecuting.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent and it is the government's responsibility to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.