FBI Investigates Arkansas Guard Violence
In June 2006, the FBI began a civil rights investigation into a prisoner's beating administered by guards at the Maximum Security Unit in Tucker, Arkansas. The investigation, surprisingly, was requested by prison officials.
The officials were investigating an incident that occurred in the prison's dining hall on Memorial Day in 2006. It began at 4:30 p.m. when prisoner Terry Botts pulled out a shank and stabbed prisoners Antonio Finney and Brad Scott. A captain, a lieutenant and two other guards tackled Botts and took the shank away.
"At that point any use of force should have stopped. It was no longer necessary," said Arkansas Correction Department (ACD) spokesperson Dina Taylor. The guards, however, then proceeded to kick, punch and strike Botts with a baton. He suffered bruises, swelling to his face and a bump on his head, requiring treatment at a local hospital.
When investigators examined the stabbing they learned about the guard-administered beating, and found the use of force had not been reported. Six guards were fired as a result - the four who beat Botts and two others who failed to report the assault or lied about it when questioned. Three more guards were suspended without pay and four others received written reprimands.
Prison officials contacted the FBI after they substantiated the beating allegations. The guards' names were not released.
An unrelated April 29, 2006 incident at the prison led to the resignation of Captain Eric Hobbs, an eight-year veteran. Hobbs removed prisoner Nicholas Lewondowski from his cell after a fight and poked him in the neck with his finger. While the incident was minor, investigators deemed the matter serious because Hobbs failed to provide them with all the details.
Hobbs' resignation was an embarrassment for his uncle, Ray Hobbs, who is the ACD's Deputy Secretary. Eric Hobbs was previously involved in six other excessive force investigations, and has been named in at least two lawsuits filed by prisoners who alleged that he assaulted them.
Also, in July 2007 it was reported that the FBI was investigating guards at the East Arkansas Regional Unit at Brickeys. The previous month the ACD had suspended two sergeants and four guards due to their alleged involvement in beating eight prisoners from Sept. 2006 to June 2007. In August the ACD fired eight guards and suspended four others, including one lieutenant. All but one of the guards were black, though prison investigators found no racial motivation for the beatings.
On October 9, 2007 the FBI announced it had closed its investigation. "The Department of Justice and the FBI did not pursue additional federal charges against these individuals due to the remedial actions by the Department of Correction," stated Steve Frazier, an FBI spokesman.
The last time the FBI investigated Arkansas prison guards was in 1998, when five guards at the Cummins Unit were prosecuted for beating prisoners and shocking them with a cattle prod.
Sources: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Associated Press
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