Federal prosecutors broaden criminal charges against Iberia Sheriff Louis Ackal in probe of inmate beatings _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK -- Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal leaves the federal courthouse following an arraignment on March 31, 2016, in Lafayette, La. Ackal and his second-in-command, Gerald Savoy, pleaded not guilty to civil rights and conspiracy charges Thursday during a federal court hearing.

Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal and one of his top officials are expected to face additional charges in a criminal case that so far has focused on inmate beatings and cover-ups allegedly directed by high-level officials, according to documents filed in federal court this week.

The government on Friday filed a motion to postpone the June 6 trial date set for Ackal and his lieutenant over enforcement operations, Gerald Savoy, citing its “intent to pursue additional charges.”

Ackal and Savoy are accused in a sweeping federal investigation into prisoner abuses allegedly perpetrated by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators accuse Ackal and Savoy of conspiring with other deputies to assault five pretrial detainees during an April 29, 2011, shakedown. Deputies who have pleaded guilty attested in court that supervisors instructed them to take the men to the jail chapel, where the inmates could be beaten without being seen on security cameras.

According to the indictment, Ackal directed the beatings — telling deputies to “take care” of certain men — while Savoy and other deputies were present. Some of the men were accused of making improper comments toward deputies and thus assaulted with batons, with one deputy using his baton to choke a prisoner while simulating oral sex.

A fourth man who was beaten had allegedly written letters complaining of the jail’s conditions. Savoy is accused of failing to intervene during the incidents and further ordering a canine handler to make his dog bark as an intimidation measure.

Ackal and Savoy have both denied the charges.

In the motion filed Friday, prosecutors said that “extensive further discovery is forthcoming” in the case via FBI 302 forms, which agents use when conducting interviews.

Federal prosecutor Joseph Jarzabek, who’s based in Shreveport, indicated during a Wednesday status conference that the new information may be presented to the grand jury before its June adjournment, according to the minutes of that meeting.

Attorneys for Ackal and Savoy have indicated no objection to the postponement.

The parties are expected to meet again on May 31 to discuss a new trial date and determine a new schedule for filing motions in the case.

Ackal also has enlisted a third attorney to represent him. Lewis Unglesby, a prominent Baton Rouge criminal defense attorney, enrolled in the case on April 6.

Unglesby joins Michael Skinner, a former U.S. attorney, and former federal Judge Richard Haik Sr., who retired in January from the same court in which Ackal faces charges. Haik also is the sheriff’s first cousin.

Lafayette criminal defense attorney Randal McCann is representing Savoy.

Mark Blumberg and Tona Boyd, who are based in Washington, D.C., with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, also are prosecuting the case.

Meanwhile, Iberia Parish residents on Wednesday plan to demand Ackal’s resignation at a rally from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. outside the Iberia Parish courthouse.

Ackal has been charged with one count of conspiracy against rights and two counts of deprivation of rights under the color of law in the federal criminal case. Savoy was charged with one count of civil rights conspiracy and one count of deprivation of rights.

Each man faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count. They were released on recognizance bonds after pleading not guilty during their first appearance in federal court on March 31.

Nine former deputies already have committed to cooperating with the investigation when they pleaded guilty to their roles in the beatings, with some deputies admitting to providing false statements during the civil lawsuits that followed and to FBI agents who later began investigating the Sheriff’s Office.

One deputy also pleaded guilty to assaulting a man under the direction of someone identified in the pleading only as a “high-ranking” sheriff’s official who sought revenge on the belief the man attacked one of his relatives.

Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.