A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal and one of his top officials on conspiracy and civil rights violations for their alleged involvement in beatings inside the parish jail’s chapel, incidents that already have netted guilty pleas from eight other employees who admitted to their roles in the abuse.
Ackal faces one count of conspiracy against rights and two counts of deprivation of rights under the color of law, and Lt. Col. Gerald Savoy faces one count of civil rights conspiracy and one count of deprivation of rights, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Each man faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
It was unclear late Wednesday who will serve as either man’s attorney.
Investigators with the FBI’s Lafayette Resident Agency 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 there were no security cameras, to be punished by force.
According to the indictment, Ackal directed the beatings — telling deputies to “take care” of certain men — while Savoy and other deputies were present.
The indictment also places Ackal and Savoy inside the chapel for the beatings of Anthony Daye — who’s involved in a pending civil lawsuit in his case — and another detainee identified as H.G., whom Ackal had ordered punished in the chapel after learning the man had written letters complaining of conditions at the jail.
Savoy also is accused of ordering a canine handler to make his dog bark to intimidate the two men.
Ackal and Savoy each face a deprivation of civil rights count in Daye’s beating.
Ackal also told then-narcotics agent Ben Lassalle — who pleaded guilty last month to his role in the beatings — to “take care” of a detainee accused of making a lewd comment, according to the indictment. In Ackal and Savoy’s presence, Lassalle and then-warden Wesley Hayes conspired to bring the man to the chapel.
Lassalle used his baton in the chapel to beat that detainee, Curtis Ozenne, and two others blamed for the comment, identified as S.S. and A.T., according to the indictment.
The men the Iberia deputies admitted abusing are identified in the federal court filings only by their initials, but The Advocate matched those initials with the names of prisoners who filed lawsuits alleging the same details and dates of the beatings outlined in the criminal case.
Ackal’s other deprivation of civil rights count stems from Ozenne’s beating.
Eight deputies in total have pleaded guilty in recent weeks, some admitting to other beatings both at the jail and in the community while others admitting to lying during depositions in the civil lawsuits that followed.
While most of the guilty pleas have been related to the April 2011 assaults, which occurred as part of a larger contraband sweep at the jail, some guards also were implicated in a beating of an inmate in September of that year.
A plea entered Monday came from a deputy who said a person identified only as a “high-ranking” sheriff’s official sent him to an apartment in New Iberia to exact revenge.
Deputy David Hines said he was directed to find and assault a man identified as “R.T.” because a high-ranking Sheriff’s Office official believed the man had attacked one of his relatives, according to his plea agreement.
Hines said he struck the man with his knee and his baton, then wrote a false police report to justify the use of force, the plea agreement states.
The official accused of ordering the attack has not been identified.
The extent of the ongoing Iberia probe is unknown, but federal authorities also have an interest in at least two other incidents of alleged abuse at the jail.
Sheriff’s Office attorney Steve Elledge said in court documents filed last month that the U.S. Department of Justice, which also handled the guilty plea cases, is investigating the case of inmate Whitney Paul Lee Jr., who has filed a lawsuit over alleged abuse at the jail in October 2014.
Elledge, in an attempt to have the lawsuit paused pending the federal investigation, wrote in court documents that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed all records related to the incident.
A federal grand jury already had subpoenaed a jail surveillance video from December 2012 that shows an inmate being attacked by a dog and then a deputy joining in to stomp and kick the man.
The Sheriff’s Office acknowledged in an interview last year that federal authorities were investigating the incident, which was one of several detailed in a report by The Advocate on inmate deaths and claims of abuse since Ackal took office in 2008.
Ackal has not responded to repeated requests for comment since the first guilty pleas in the case last month, nor has his office responded to The Advocate’s questions about the employment status of the officers who have entered guilty pleas.