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January 8, 2015

Three Former Correctional Officers at Angola Prison Sentenced for Abusing an Inmate and Cover-Up

WASHINGTON—Three former correctional officers with the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, were sentenced today before United States District Judge James J. Brady for the Middle District of Louisiana for abusing an inmate and engaging in conduct to cover up the criminal conduct. Mark Sharp, 33, received 73 months. Kevin Groom, 47, was sentenced to one year probation and a $500 fine. Matthew Cody Butler, 29, received two years’ probation and a $3,000 fine.

According to court documents filed in connection with their guilty pleas, on January 24, 2010, defendants Groom, Sharp and Butler were on duty as correctional officials when they learned that an inmate had escaped from his assigned location. Shortly after the defendants joined the search for the escapee, the inmate surrendered to prison officials. The inmate was handcuffed behind his back and placed in the back of a pick-up truck to be transported to the medical unit. Groom, Butler, and Sharp escorted the inmate on the back of that truck. During the drive to the medical unit, Sharp repeatedly struck the inmate with an baton. During the ensuring investigation of the inmate’s complaint that officers had abused him, Groom and Butler engaged in various conduct to cover up the assault.

Sharp pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of the inmate and to making false statements to the FBI. Groom pleaded guilty to falsifying records in a federal investigation and making false statements to the FBI. Butler pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony.

Another former officer, Jason Giroir, also pleaded guilty on May 29, 2013, to falsifying a report and making a false statement to the FBI. He will be sentenced separately on January 29, 2015.

“The vast majority of American law enforcement officers conduct themselves with honor,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division. “But when law enforcement officers abuse inmates and attempt to cover-up their misconduct, the Department of Justice stands ready to hold those officers accountable for their conduct.”

“It is unfortunate that the defendants’ criminal activities threaten to overshadow the courageous and outstanding work performed every day by the vast majority of law enforcement officers, both inside and outside the penal system,” said U.S. Attorney J. Walter Green for the Middle District of Louisiana.

“This thorough and patient investigation not only resulted in the full accountability of all correctional officers involved, but also demonstrated unwavering adherence to the procedural rights of the victim and accused,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Anderson of the FBI’s New Orleans Office.

The investigation in this matter was conducted by Special Agent Taneka Harris of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney AeJean Cha and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert W. Piedrahita.

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