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Virginia Jail Officials Indicted on Civil Rights Violations

A Western District of Virginia federal grand jury indicted two former Rockbridge County Regional Jail (RCRJ) officials on charges related to civil rights violations and falsifying documents to obstruct justice.

The August 14, 2018 indictment, which was initially sealed, included four counts against former RCRJ superintendent John Marshall Higgins, 61, and two counts against former RCRJ head nurse Gary Andrew Hassler, 58.

Three of the counts related to Higgins’ failure to protect pretrial detainees “from [ ] foreseeable injury and violence, resulting in bodily injury.” The first count alleged that Higgins, acting under color of law, deprived a prisoner identified as “R.E.C.” of that right between February 28 and March 3, 2017, while a second count alleged similar conduct between October 28 and December 22, 2016. The third count accused Higgins of such conduct between February 23 and February 28, 2017, resulting in harm to both R.E.C. and another detainee, R.K.

Two of the charges were for knowingly falsifying documentation “with the intent to impede, obstruct, and influence the investigation” of the FBI. The indictment claimed that Hassler “falsified a jail medical log for inmate R.E.C. dated March 5, 2017, by falsely claiming that on February 28, 2017, inmate R.E.C. had refused his medication.” It also alleged in another count that Hassler falsely reported that R.E.C. declined medical care on March 1, 2017.

The FBI was assisted in the investigation by the Virginia State Police and the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office for Rockbridge County. The charges remain pending. See: United States v. Higgins, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Vir.), Case No. 6:18-cr-00010-NKM. 


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Related legal case

United States v. Higgins