A federal grand jury returned an indictment today charging four officers at the Alabama Department of Corrections with federal civil rights and obstruction of justice offenses.
Sergeant Keith Finch and corrections officers Jordan Thomas and Kevin Blaylock are charged with deprivation of rights under color of law, in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 242. Thomas and Sergeant Orlanda Walker are charged with obstruction of justice, in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1519.
The indictment alleges that, on Sept. 12, 2018, Finch, Thomas, and Blaylock used excessive force to punish a prisoner who ran out of his cell in the Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent, Alabama. After two officers took the prisoner to the ground, the prisoner curled up in a fetal position and was surrounded by multiple officers. Finch, Thomas, and Blaylock then kicked the prisoner and hit him multiple times with their batons. As a result of this unjustified use of force, the prisoner sustained bodily injury. Thomas and his supervisor, Walker, then obstructed justice by filing false reports that claimed “all force ceased” once the prisoner was on the ground.
If convicted, Finch, Thomas, and Blaylock face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the civil rights charges. Thomas and Walker face up to 20 years in prison for the obstruction charges. The officers also face a maximum of three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
These cases were investigated by the FBI, and are being prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Michael J. Songer and Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Crosby Long of the Northern District of Alabama’s Birmingham Office.