Iberia, Louisiana, sheriff accused of having inmates beaten

Federal prosecutors say Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal conspired to beat prisoners in his charge.

Story highlights

  • Eight former Iberia Parish officers have already pleaded guilty in related cases, which date back to 2011
  • Officers would take prisoners to the chapel, where there were no surveillance cameras, an indictment says

(CNN)Officers with a Louisiana sheriff's department beat inmates in a jail chapel, choking one with a baton during a simulated sex act and intimidating another prisoner with a police dog, a federal indictment says.

Sheriff Louis Ackal and Lt. Col. Gerald Savoy of the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office are each charged with conspiracy against rights and two counts of deprivation of rights, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Louisiana.
    They're the latest to be charged in a case that dates back to April 29, 2011. Eight former Iberia Parish officers already have pleaded guilty in related cases.
    "It was the plan and purpose of the conspiracy that IPSO officers and supervisors would punish and retaliate against inmates and pretrial detainees by taking them to the chapel of the (Iberia Parish Jail), where there were no video surveillance cameras, to unlawfully assault them," the indictment says.
    Officers and supervisors witnessing the assaults agreed not to intervene, according to the indictment filed Wednesday.
    In one instance, Ackal is accused of telling Officer Byron Benjamin Lassalle, who pleaded guilty to deprivation of civil rights and a count of civil rights conspiracy last month, to "take care" of an inmate, identified as C.O.
    Lassalle took C.O. to the chapel for making a lewd comment in the recreation yard, the indictment says. Lassalle, Wesley Hayes, who pleaded guilty to the same charges as Lassalle last month, and other officers took C.O. to the chapel and beat him with a baton "while C.O. was compliant and not posing a threat to anyone," the indictment states.
    C.O. eventually blamed the remark on another prisoner, S.S., who was brought to the chapel and beaten with a baton as he knelt on the floor, prosecutors allege.
    "Upon learning that S.S. was in jail for a sex offense, Lassalle took his baton, held it between his own legs as if it were a penis, and forced it into S.S.'s mouth, causing S.S. to choke," the indictment states.
    S.S. then blamed a third inmate, who was also taken to the chapel and beaten, the indictment says.
    In a separate incident, Ackal learned a prisoner identified as H.G. had written letters complaining about conditions in the jail, the indictment alleges, and ordered an officer to take H.G. and another prisoner, A.D., to the chapel.
    "While A.D. was being beaten, another officer struck H.G., who also was in the chapel," the indictment says. "During the assaults, Savoy ordered a K-9 handler to make his dog bark, in order to intimidate detainees A.D. and H.G."
    The indictment describes Savoy and Ackal as co-conspirators "aiding and abetting each other and others" during assaults in the Iberia Parish Jail.
    The pair each face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each of the civil rights violations, as well as a potential $250,000 fine for each count.
    Ackal released a statement Thursday saying he intends to remain sheriff and has no plans to change that decision.
    "In spite of recent allegations made against me, I am confident I will be vindicated. I also speak on the behalf of my current employees when saying I am positive they are dedicated to protecting the citizens of Iberia Parish.
    "For my entire professional career I have had faith in our judicial system. I continue to believe in our system and that history will show I have always stood on the side of good," the statement said.