Former Oklahoma Jail Superintendents Convicted of Using Excessive Force Against Inmates
|U.S. Department of Justice February 25, 2014|
Today, a federal jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma in Muskogee, Oklahoma, convicted Raymond A. Barnes, 43, and Christopher A. Brown, 32, the former jail superintendent and assistant jail superintendent, respectively, of the Muskogee County Jail (MCJ) on multiple counts of civil rights offenses related to allegations of excessive force on inmates at MCJ on or between August 2009 and May 2011. Brown was also convicted of making material false statements to the FBI.
Both Barnes and Brown were found guilty of conspiring to violate the rights of inmates housed at MCJ by assaulting inmates themselves or by directing other jailers employed by MCJ to do so. Specifically, the defendants did or caused the following to be done: unjustifiably strike, assault, harm, and physically punish inmates at MCJ who were restrained, compliant, and not posing a physical threat; organize “meet and greets,” whereby jailers would scare, punish, and harm incoming inmates from neighboring counties by throwing and slamming the handcuffed inmates to the ground upon their arrival at MCJ; threaten to fire MCJ employees if they reported abusive behavior directly to the sheriff or to outside law enforcement authorities; require and encourage MCJ jailers to write incident reports that falsely justified uses of force and contained misleading or inaccurate accounts of what had occurred when force was used; and perpetuate an environment within MCJ that allowed unlawful beatings and assaults against inmates to continue indefinitely and without consequence.
Both defendants were also convicted of violating the rights of an inmate identified as J.R. when MCJ jailers slammed and threw J.R. head-first to the ground while he was handcuffed. Barnes was additionally convicted of violating the rights of a second inmate, G.T., for similar conduct. Brown was acquitted of violating the rights of G.T.
In addition, Brown was convicted of one count of making material false statements to the FBI. Brown falsely claimed that, during meet and greets, the incoming inmate was ordered out of the transport vehicle and then “gently placed” on the ground. But in fact, Brown knew at the time of his statement to the FBI that during these meet and greets the MCJ jailers routinely threw and slammed inmates to the ground even though the inmates were restrained and posed no physical threat.
“Our constitutional system of government requires this nation’s jailers to abide by the laws they enforce and to protect the constitutional rights of all persons in their custody,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels of the Civil Rights Division. “Today’s verdict demonstrates that the Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute anyone who abuses their official power to harm the people in their custody.”
The defendants face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years for each of the civil rights convictions. Brown faces a statutory maximum penalty of five years for making material false statements to the FBI.
This case was investigated by the Muskogee Resident Agency of the Oklahoma City Division of the FBI and prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Fara Gold and Dana Mulhauser of the Civil Rights Division.