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Brink Hillman, left, and Gary King

Two former corrections officers awaiting trial in the death of an inmate have been accused of abusing inmates in multiple lawsuits stretching back more than a decade, court records show.

Five guards at B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center in the town of Angie were fired in August after state and local authorities conducted a joint investigation into the death of 55-year-old Anthony Carl Smith.

Smith was found dead in his cell in March 2019 just hours after a request for medical attention led to a "use of force incident." His death was ruled an accident by the Washington Parish Coroner. 

Three of the guards involved, including Capt. Brink Hillman and Sgt. Gary King, have been indicted on malfeasance and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice charges.

Both Hillman and King have been the subjects of — or mentioned in — multiple prisoner lawsuits over the years alleging unnecessary use of force against inmates or claiming other forms of misconduct. Together, the lawsuits describe numerous instances of abuse, beatings and threats, often in concert with other guards at the prison. All of the lawsuits were filed by someone incarcerated at Rayburn.

Ken Pastorick, spokesperson with the state Department of Public Safety and of Corrections, said in a statement that the majority of the cases brought against Hillman and King are "more than a decade old." He pointed out three of the cases were dismissed by federal judges, and one was deemed "frivolous."

He added his office is unable to comment on the two most recently filed cases, which are less than six months old and remain pending. 

One of those recent lawsuits mentions Smith's death, implicating King and Hillman. It was filed by inmate Kyron Folse in July, four months after the incident.

Folse said in his lawsuit that he overheard Hillman, King and several other officers discussing "a murder," and that witnesses at the prison had seen the officers "kill" Smith on March 10. 

Since Folse reported the incident, he said a guard had made "multiple threats" toward him, trying to get him to drop his complaint.

"Please understand that I am currently housed at the same location where I have this suit against," he wrote. His case remains open. 

Other suits naming Hillman date back years.

Former inmate Jamie Troquille filed a lawsuit in 2007 against then-Sgt.  Hillman, along with four other guards at Rayburn. It was dismissed within months on a technical violation — that Troquille had not exhausted the internal prison complaint process known as an Administrative Remedy Procedure before filing a civil suit.

In his suit, Troquille claimed that, in April 2007, Hillman and three other corrections officers beat him in his cell after Troquille and another guard got into an argument. He alleges one of the officers then cuffed Troquille’s wrists and ankles and made him kneel outside the cell, where Hillman and another officer punched him in the face. They then uncuffed him and left him on the floor of his cell, the lawsuit says.

Troquille asked Hillman several times to report an emergency because he was “vomiting blood and it hurt when (he) breathed,” but Hillman refused, the lawsuit says. Troquille said he remained on the floor of his cell spitting blood in the toilet for roughly two hours, until the guard shift changed and a different officer found him.  

Troquille, who has since been released, would not provide comment on his case.

Another suit was filed against Hillman in 2007 that claimed he had stood as lookout while another corrections officer forced an inmate to perform sex acts. The case went to trial before a federal magistrate judge, who ruled in favor of Hillman and the other guards in the suit. 

Inmate Keith Labat, a former lawyer convicted of theft, forgery and issuing worthless checks, filed a lawsuit in 2008, which was later dismissed. In the lawsuit, Labat alleges Hillman “savagely and intentionally beat Labat” while his wrists and ankles were shackled, then denied him medical treatment. 

The lawsuit said his injuries were only treated after Louisiana State Police dispatched two detectives and a ranking prison official to meet with him and assess his condition. When the authorities left, Hillman again restrained Labat and threw him against a wall, Labat said.

He claims Hillman told him he was “a dead man for reporting the beating” and added, apparently referring to State Police, “his cavalry will not help him because they would be killed also.” 

Many of these incidents occurred in “Sun Unit,” the same tier Smith was housed in when he died, according to medical records from the day of his death. 

Labat has also been released since he filed his suit and, beyond confirming he had filed the complaint, was unable to provide comment for this story. 

In a different 2008 lawsuit, inmate Sean Walker alleges Hillman forced him to kneel in his cell while restrained by “hand-cuff waist belt combination” shackles, then let Walker's cellmate attack him. In addition to injuries from the beating, Walker said the attack caused him to experience dizziness, loss of consciousness and a hazy memory for some time after the incident. 

The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed as frivolous. Walker, who has since been released, said in an interview this week that he felt he had been targeted by guards at the facility. After he filed an ARP and then later a lawsuit, Walker said guards started to call him "paper-pusher."

"I think (Hillman) thought I would take it lying down," Walker said. "I felt like I was wronged, all the way down to the end." 

To this day, Walker said he continues to see spots in his vision — "floaters" that appeared following the beating. 

"The floaters never leave," he said. 

Lawsuits against King allege similar abuses. One inmate, Michael Clennon, claims that in November 2018 — mere months before Smith's death — King assaulted him while he was restrained in handcuffs. 

"King knocked him to his knees and then smashed his face on the concrete," the lawsuit says. 

Even as King beat him, the lawsuit reads, he told Clennon to "stop resisting." 

After Clennon requested protection from the warden, the warden said Clennon was not in any danger. The lawsuit notes King had attacked other inmates in the past for filing ARPs, and that the warden was well-acquainted with King's "dangerous nature." 

Clennon's lawsuit remains open. His lawyer, Donna Grodner, did not provide a comment for this story. 

Another lawsuit from 2008 alleges King, like Hillman, stood lookout by a supply closet in the prison while another guard raped the inmate. 

After the assault, the inmate emerged from the supply closet to find King "standing there staring at (him), smiling," the lawsuit says. It also says King later tracked down the inmate and warned him he had heard of other inmates "getting messed over badly" for reporting allegations of sexual assault.  

The lawsuit was settled in 2012, according to court records. Pastorick, the Department of Corrections spokesman, said both parties settled out of court for $1,000. Pastorick said the lawsuit sought $2.12 million and was settled "to avoid the unwarranted time and expense it would have cost to pursue the case."

When contacted, King said he did not wish to provide a comment for this story. Calls to Hillman and his lawyer went unanswered. 


Email Jacqueline DeRobertis at jderobertis@theadvocate.com