As the number of people in prison and jail in Georgia has increased, so too has the number of corruption cases involving detention and police officials. One of every 13 Georgians are under the watchful eye of law enforcement authorities – but based on the following incidents, one has to wonder who is watching the watchers.
Two days before Victor Hill’s term expired as sheriff of Clayton County, Georgia, he filed for bankruptcy. Hill claimed that he could not afford to pay $1.7 million in damages stemming from several lawsuits. In October 2008 he was ordered to pay $475,000 to Mark Tuggle, the brother of a former Clayton County sheriff, for false arrest. He also faced five other suits.
After his bankruptcy filing it was discovered that Hill had stashed $25,000 in a stock account that he failed to report to the bankruptcy court. In February 2009, federal trustee Tamara Miles Ogier ordered Hill to turn the money over so it could be divided among his creditors. Federal officials are also investigating whether Hill stole weapons and other sheriff’s equipment before he left office.
The Clayton County Commission is reviewing a Las Vegas trip that Hill had charged to the county without the chairman’s approval. He said he attended a conference during the trip. Hill’s term as Sheriff was wracked with controversy, such as when he gathered dozens of employees into a jail holding area and fired them, reportedly for political reasons. A lawsuit over that incident settled for $6.5 million. [See: PLN, May 2008, p.36].
In February 2009, six employees at the Hays State Prison were fired. Their names were not released; it was only re-ported that five were guards and one was a lieutenant. The firings were related to the October 13, 2008 escape of prisoners Michael Tweedel and Johnny Mack Brown. Brown was caught several weeks later after taking a woman hostage at knifepoint, while Tweedel remained at large for four months.
A 53-page report by the Dekalb County Sheriff’s Office has exposed the shenanigans of former police chief Terrell Bolton. The report claims that Bolton falsified documents to hide a $32,000 Range Rover and a $55,000 Mercedes that he kept for his personal use. The report also indicates that from September 2007 to December 2008, Bolton submitted paperwork claiming 448 hours – or 56 days – of unapproved comp time. The investigation led to his termination last February, which was upheld by county officials on August 17, 2009.
Accusing an entire jail of homicide is rare, but a coroner’s inquest jury ruled that the Whitfield County Jail was guilty of homicide in the death of prisoner Barnes Thomas Nowlin, Jr. Nowlin, 39, was arrested on June 2, 2008 after he failed to appear in court on a charge of failing to stop and render aid. Two days later, Nowlin, a diabetic, was found dead in his cell. His death was caused by diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which is “a state of inadequate insulin levels resulting in high blood sugar and accumulation of organic acids and ketones in the blood.”
“The man was incarcerated by Whitfield County, and on the second day he was incarcerated he expired,” said juror Dewey Moss. “The jury felt he exhibited enough symptoms to be sick, but help was not provided. That’s why we determined it to be a homicide.” Regardless, the inquest jury’s finding did not result in any charges.
In Fulton County, five jail guards have been arrested and indicted on federal offenses. The first arrest was on March 20, 2009 and involved a prisoner’s death.
Jail guard Curtis Jerome Brown, Jr. was charged in the March 2008 beating of mentally ill prisoner Richard Glasco. Glasco was found unconscious in his cell after he had kicked and pounded on the cell door and window; he later died. Brown is also being investigated for beating a handcuffed prisoner in August 2007, leaving him bloodied and in need of medical attention.
In May 2009, federal officials arrested Fulton County jail guards Derontay Anton Langford and Mitnee Markette Jones on charges of filing a false report, making false statements to federal agents and obstruction of justice in the investigation of Glasco’s death. Both were released on $10,000 bond.
Federal investigators arrested Fulton County Sheriff’s Office lieutenants Robert W. Hill, Jr. and Earl Glenn in April 2009 on charges of violating the civil rights of a prisoner, obstructing justice, filing a false report and making false statements to federal agents. The charges related to an August 9, 2008 incident involving prisoner Christopher Trammell, who was beaten while in wrist and leg restraints. Hill was further charged with soliciting subordinates to commit civil rights violations.
Glenn pleaded guilty in August 2009 and Langford pleaded guilty on Sept. 22. Both are awaiting sentencing hearings. Brown and Jones are scheduled to go to trial in January 2010, while Hill’s case remains pending.
“Whether or not we ultimately determine that other officers committed crimes against inmates, any officer who obstructs our efforts to find the truth should expect to be arrested and charged with serious federal felony offenses,” said U.S. Attorney David Nahmias. “Our message to Fulton County jail employees should be clear: You don’t want to be next.”
On May 27, 2009, Sumter County Correctional Institution guard James Cooper was arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and charged with transporting unspecified contraband.
Finally, Joshua David Lowe, a former Polk County jail sergeant, was indicted by a federal jury on May 27, 2009 and charged with using excessive force on a prisoner. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced on October 15, 2009 to 21 months in federal prison and three years supervised release.
Apparently, not even the daily reminder of crime’s consequences can keep some prison, jail and law enforcement officials from breaking the law and abusing their public positions. Then again, perhaps it is those very positions that make them feel untouchable, which leads them to commit crimes.
Sources: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, www.northfulton.com, Associated Press, www.northwestgeorgia.com, www.dcor.state.ga.us, www.wtvm.com, FBI press release
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login