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Brazoria Trial Brings Acquittals, Convictions in Jail Beatings

In October, 1999, a federal jury returned acquittals and a minor conviction against private prison guards charged with beating and abusing Missouri prisoners. As previously reported in PLN, some 100 Missouri prisoners were sent to the Brazoria county jail in Texas to relieve overcrowding in the Missouri prison system. The jail was operated by the Bobby Ross Group, a private prison company.

In 1997 a video surfaced, which was shown on national television, in which jail guards were shown beating and abusing prisoners. The incident led to several civil rights suits seeking money damages as well as a federal criminal prosecution.

In 1999 the U.S. government charged Brazoria jail guards Robert Percival, David Cisneros and Wilton Wallace with federal civil rights charges stemming from the videotaped beating of prisoner Toby Hawthorne.

Percival was acquitted of all charges, despite being on video kicking Hawthorne in the groin. The jury deadlocked in Cisnero's case and convicted Wallace on misdemeanor charges for kicking Hawthorne in the head. Wallace has previous federal civil rights convictions stemming from abusing prisoners at the Brazoria county jail.

Brazoria county district attorney Jeri Yenne was critical of the federal prosecution. Yenne accused the FBI of covering up its own bloody misconduct at Ruby Ridge and Waco while vigorously prosecuting charges against the three jail guards in beatings that did not kill anyone.

It is interesting to note that when Los Angeles police were acquitted in the video taped beating of Rodney King there was widespread attention given to the case (in part due to the rioting that accompanied it). However, in another equally brutal and savage video taped beating, the acquittals meet with silence.

Source: Corrections Digest

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