Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal will continue working without a gun and must remain under the court's supervision as he awaits trial on accusations that inmate beatings occurred in his jail and at his direction, a federal judge decided Friday.

Prosecutors sought the supervision restriction after an informant provided surreptitious recordings of Ackal making threatening and anti-Semitic comments about a Washington-based attorney in the case.

Ackal, who faces two counts of conspiracy against rights and two counts of deprivation against rights, made a brief statement to reporters after the hearing.

"It would be much better to abide by the court than to be locked up in jail after 50 years with law enforcement," he said.

Ackal will now report to a pretrial services officer, who will report to U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Hanna whether the sheriff is maintaining the terms of his bail.

In court Friday, Hanna implored the sheriff to remain on his best behavior.

"If you don't want to end up in the St. Martin Parish jail, then you will follow my conditions," Hanna said.

Ackal cannot possess a firearm or commit any crimes, including tampering with, retaliating against or intimidating any witness or informant.

Prosecutors sought additional restrictions — including that he not possess any other weapons, that he refrain from excessive alcohol use and that he be subject to unannounced weapon inspections — that Hanna denied. 

Ackal had been recorded in a rant after meeting with U.S. Justice Department attorney Mark Blumberg, saying he would shoot him between his "Jewish eyes."

A few weeks after the recordings came to light, Ackal's attorney, John McLindon, sought the firearm reinstatement a day after the recent and high-profile killings of police officers in Baton Rouge.

Ackal had been working without a gun since March, when he first faced arraignment in the case.

Hanna denied the request on Friday, admitting the "viable possibility" of a threat to a gun-free Ackal while also noting the seriousness of the sheriff's remarks.

"This court cannot just turn a blind eye to these kinds of statements," Hanna said.

The government has not publicly identified who made the recordings.

McLindon said after the hearing the statements were made in the privacy of Ackal's home and among friends, although he declined to identify who may be responsible.

He had subpoenaed Deborah Lourd, an Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office employee, to the Friday hearing, but he released her after a private meeting with prosecutors ahead of court proceedings.

McLindon did not say why Lourd was subpoenaed.

Ackal, one of his top supervisors, Gerald Savoy, and former Capt. Mark Frederick, face criminal charges in a federal investigation that has already netted guilty pleas this year from nine deputies.

The investigation has focused on a series of 2011 beatings inside the jail’s chapel, a location prosecutors say was chosen because there were no surveillance cameras.


Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook.