District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro plans Friday to charge an Orleans Parish Prison deputy accused of striking an inmate in the face this year in the jail’s troubled juvenile tier.
The deputy, James Henry, will face a felony count of malfeasance in office, said Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office.
The incident happened within the jail’s Conchetta facility on Tulane Avenue, which houses juvenile defendants being prosecuted as adults. The facility has been the site of numerous inmate-on-inmate attacks in recent months.
The charge stems from a Jan. 3 incident in which at least one other deputy saw Henry strike the inmate “with a closed fist,” according to an inter-office memorandum obtained by The New Orleans Advocate.
The memo, released in response to a public records request, said Deputy Ernest Newman saw the incident and “immediately proceeded toward” Henry to separate him from the inmate. Newman, in his report, said the inmate had closed his fists and “slightly raised” them from his waist when Henry struck him.
Newman wrote that he did not see what prompted the run-in. Deputies had been responding to a call about someone — presumably an inmate — stealing “a black bag and a jar of cheese” at Conchetta. The inmates had been told to “lock down” in their assigned cells, the memo says.
Philip Stelly, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said at the time that the inmate had refused an order to go into his cell. The inmate approached Henry, and the deputy pushed him away “to create distance,” Stelly said.
“The inmate approached a second time and was rebuffed with a single blow to the facial area,” Stelly said.
Deputies eventually gained control of the inmate, and one of the deputies pushed him into a nearby cell, the memo says. The inmate received “no physical injuries as a result of the confrontation,” the memo says.
Sources have said the incident was captured on jailhouse surveillance video, but the Sheriff’s Office has declined to confirm that. Newman notes in his memo, however, that inmates had suggested the deputies “go check the cameras” to see who stole the cheese.
Henry remains suspended without pay, awaiting disciplinary review.
The Sheriff’s Office referred the Henry case to Cannizzaro’s office for potential prosecution. Stelly said the agency refers use-of-force cases to the district attorney when there is probable cause for an arrest.
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