Fourth Alabama correctional officer convicted for allowing inmate abuse

Image Credit: Julie Bennett/[email protected]

After witnessing a correctional
officer beat two handcuffed inmates without legal justification, a former
Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) shift commander was recently convicted
of failing to stop an officer under his command from assaulting an inmate.
Three other correctional officers have already pleaded guilty to their
participation in the incident.

In April 2019, ADOC Sergeant
Ulysses Oliver Jr. pleaded guilty in federal court to assaulting two handcuffed
inmates at ADOC’s Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore County, Alabama.
According to the guilty
plea
, Sgt. Oliver escorted a handcuffed inmate into a hallway before
punching, kicking, and beating the first victim approximately 19 times with a
collapsible metal baton.

After returning to the observation
room, Oliver grabbed a second handcuffed inmate and pulled him into the hallway
before kicking the second victim and striking him approximately 10
times
with the baton. During the assaults, the victims were handcuffed, and
were not resisting or posing a threat.

Oliver later shoved the tip of his
baton into the face of one of the inmates and lacerated him. When Oliver turned
himself in for using excessive force, his shift commander, ADOC Lieutenant
Willie Burks instructed Oliver to falsely write in his report that Burks had
ordered him to stop the attack.

Rather than intervene, as Lt. Burks
had been trained to do, Burks stood silent until the end of the beating, at
which time he commented, “That’s fair.”

Former Corrections Officers Briana
Mosley and Leon Williams, who were also present during the assault, pleaded
guilty for failing to intervene. In September 2019, Burks was charged with
failing to stop an officer under his command from assaulting an inmate and
making false statements.

After a three-day trial, a federal
jury convicted Burks for allowing inmate abuse under his watch as shift
commander. He is the fourth correctional officer to be convicted in federal
court in connection with this assault.

“The Constitution requires officers
to take reasonable steps to stop excessive force when they know of it and have
the power to stop it,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the
Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Defendant Burks defied the
Constitution, and ignored his oath as a law enforcement officer, when he
casually watched a handcuffed and defenseless inmate in his custody being
assaulted by an officer under his command. We stand ready to hold officers who
commit federal civil rights violations inside of jails and prisons accountable
for their misconduct.”

“Correctional officers have an
incredibly difficult and important job,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra
Stewart for the Middle District of Alabama. “Although a vast majority of
them serve with honor, cases like this damage public trust and make the job
they do more difficult. When officers abandon their oath to protect and serve,
and turn a blind eye to criminal conduct, they must be held accountable.”

“When a law enforcement officer
accepts his or her oath of office, they also accept the higher standard they
must adhere to,” noted FBI Special Agent in Charge James Jewell of the FBI’s
Mobile Division in a press
release
. “The abuse of prisoners should not, and will not, be tolerated by
the men and women of the FBI and their work in this case was exemplary. The
cooperation of the multiple agencies involved in this case, and most
specifically the Alabama Department of Corrections, is a testament to their
dedication to the administration of justice.”

Burks is currently scheduled to be
sentenced in November. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in
prison.

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