Special to the Journal
The Justice Department and U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Michael J. Moore announced today that Stacy Bloodsworth, the former sheriff of Wilcox County, Georgia, pleaded guilty to assaulting an inmate inside the Wilcox County jail and subsequently conspiring to cover up the assault. Bloodsworth’s son, Austin Bloodsworth, also pleaded guilty to conspiring to cover up the same assault. Three other defendants had previously pleaded guilty to civil rights and obstruction of justice crimes in connection with the July 23, 2009 assault.
During his plea hearing, Stacy Bloodsworth admitted that on July 23, 2009, while he was acting as sheriff, he was inside the Wilcox County Jail with several other individuals, including his son, Austin Bloodsworth; a Wilcox County inmate-trustee, Willie James Caruthers; a South Central Georgia Drug Task Force agent, Timothy King, Jr.; and a Wilcox County jailer, Casey Owens. Stacy Bloodsworth ordered three inmates out of their cells because he was angry about reports that one of the inmates had a cell phone, which is in violation of jail regulations. Bloodsworth hit all three inmates and also watched as other people, including the sheriff’s son, struck and kicked one of the inmates in the face. After it appeared that that inmate’s jaw was broken, the sheriff used a wrench in an attempt to put his broken jaw back into place.
Approximately one week later, the inmate was brought to a local hospital, where his jaw had to be wired shut. The other two inmates assaulted on the same day suffered lacerations, bruising, and pain.
During the plea hearing, Stacy Bloodsworth further admitted that he and the others conspired to cover up the July 23, 2009 assault. The following day, Bloodsworth concocted a false cover story about the assaults in order to cover up the involvement of the law enforcement officials. Specifically, the sheriff instructed Caruthers, Austin Bloodsworth, King, and Owens that, if they were ever questioned about the incident, they should say that inmate Caruthers and the victim got into a physical altercation after the inmate used a racial slur against Caruthers. Stacy Bloodsworth, knowing that this statement was false, instructed Caruthers and Owens to write this false cover story in a report. In addition, in August 2010, after learning that the inmate whose jaw had been broken had hired an attorney and had begun to initiate a lawsuit, Sheriff Bloodsworth met with King and Owens and again instructed them that to relay the false story about the cause of the inmate’s broken jaw. In April 2011, Stacy Bloodsworth, who was then still the sheriff of Wilcox County, relayed the false cover story regarding the cause of the inmate’s broken jaw to special agents of the FBI.
Austin Bloodsworth also pleaded guilty today to conspiring to cover up the July 23, 2009 assault. During his plea hearing, Austin Bloodsworth admitted that he kicked the inmate in the face multiple times. In addition, he admitted that he relayed the sheriff’s false cover story about the assault to special agents of the FBI who questioned him in April 2011.
“The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute officers who cross the line and engage in criminal misconduct,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
“We expect our law enforcement officials to uphold the law—and to protect those they serve,” said Michael J. Moore, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. “Today’s guilty pleas by former Sheriff Bloodsworth and Austin Bloodsworth remind us that no one, not even an elected sheriff, is above the law.”
When Stacy Bloodsworth is sentenced, he faces a maximum of 10 years on the civil rights charge and a maximum of five years on the conspiracy charge. Austin Bloodsworth faces a maximum of five years on the conspiracy charge.
This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Christine M. Siscaretti and Special Litigation Counsel Gerard V. Hogan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.