A federal judge has postponed the June 6 trial for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal and one of his top lieutenants in an apparently widening investigation into inmate beatings and cover-ups.
In a court order filed Monday granting the delay, U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter cited “the ongoing nature of the investigation and the possibility of other charges.”
Federal prosecutors wrote of their intent to pursue more charges in a Friday court motion seeking the delay. Attorneys for Ackal and Lt. Col. Gerald Savoy did not oppose pushing back the trial.
No new trial date has been set.
A federal grand jury earlier this year indicted Ackal and Savoy on civil rights violations in an April 29, 2011, contraband sweep at the Iberia Parish Jail where five inmates were allegedly taken one by one for beatings in the jail’s chapel, a location federal prosecutors say was chosen because there were no video surveillance cameras to capture the abuse.
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 one of the inmates had allegedly written letters complaining of the jail’s conditions.
Ackal and Savoy have both denied wrongdoing.
Eight former deputies have already pleaded guilty in the federal probe of abuse at the jail and subsequent cover-ups.
A ninth deputy pleaded guilty to an incident in which he said an unnamed “high-ranking” Sheriff’s Office official told him and another unidentified deputy to “take care” of a man accused of assaulting one of the official’s relatives.
Most of the guilty pleas in the case are related to the same April 2011 sweep in which Ackal and Savoy have been indicted.
Prosecutors may have moved first on charges related to that sweep because of the five-year statute of limitations on the criminal prosecution of some civil rights violations.
Prosecutors would have more time to consider charges for more recent incidents.
The trial delay comes as 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.