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March 11, 2015

Former Oklahoma Jail Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent Sentenced for Using Excessive Force Against Inmates

Raymond A. Barnes, 44, and Christopher A. Brown, 33, the former jail superintendent and assistant jail superintendent, respectively, of the Muskogee County Jail (MCJ) were sentenced in federal court today 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. Barnes was sentenced to one year and one day imprisonment followed by two years’ supervised release, and Brown was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment followed by three years’ supervised release.

On Feb. 25, 2014, a federal jury convicted both Barnes and Brown 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 found guilty of violating the rights of an inmate identified as J.R. when both defendants 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.

“The Department of Justice will not hesitate to prosecute corrections officers who violate their oath and abuse those who are entrusted to their custody,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “The convictions and sentences in this case make clear that the department will vigorously enforce the civil rights laws.”

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.

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