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Press Release

Former Superintendent of Rockbridge County Regional Jail Charged in Superseding Indicted

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia
New Indictment adds 15 Additional Charges against John Marshall Higgins, Bringing Total to 21; Former Head Nurse Gary Hassler Still Facing Two Counts of Falsifying Documents

Lynchburg, VIRGINIA – A federal grand jury sitting in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Roanoke returned a superseding indictment yesterday.  The superseding indictment still contains the original charges against two former Rockbridge County Regional Jail officials, including federal civil rights violations, falsifying documents to obstruct justice, but also charges the former superintendent of the jail with mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.  First Assistant United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar and David Archey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division made the announcement.

In a superseding indictment returned yesterday, the grand jury charged John Marshal Higgins, 61, of Lexington, Va., with four counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, with two of the four counts alleging that Higgins denied detainees medical care of their serious medical needs, resulting in bodily injury, two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and 15 counts of mail fraud.

In addition, Gary Andrew Hassler, 59, of Lexington, Va., is charged with two counts of falsifying documents in order to obstruct a federal investigation. 

According to the superseding indictment, during his tenure as superintendent of the jail, Higgins, acting under the color of law, failed to protect the rights of inmates at the Rockbridge County Regional Jail from physical abuse, which resulted in serious bodily injury to the inmates.

In addition, the indictment alleges that Higgins, acting under the color of law, failed to protect the rights of inmates at the regional jail by failing to provide inmates with medical treatment, resulting in bodily injury.

The indictment also accuses Hassler, the former head nurse at Rockbridge County Regional Jail, with falsifying medical documents to impede a federal investigation. Specifically, on or about March 5, 2017, the indictment claims that Hassler falsified a jail medical log for an inmate by falsely claiming that on February 28, 2017, the inmate refused his medication. Additionally, Hassler is accused of falsifying a Rockbridge Regional Jail Incident Report dated March 5, 2017 by falsely reporting an inmate refused medical care on March 1, 2017.

The new charges in the superseding the indictment allege that Higgins, while superintendent of the jail, agreed to accept prescription drugs for his own personal use without charge from a pharmaceutical company contracted to provide medication to inmates at the Rockbridge Regional Jail in exchange for the jail maintaining a business relationship with the pharmaceutical company.

Furthermore, the new charges in the superseding indictment allege that Higgins agreed to accept things of value from the family of an inmate at the Rockbridge Regional Jail in exchange for providing preferential treatment to the inmate.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Virginia State Police. The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office for Rockbridge County assisted with the investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Zachary T. Lee and Matthew Miller will prosecute the case for the United States.

A Grand Jury Indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated June 28, 2019

Public Corruption