Guilty pleas of six Iberia Parish Sheriff Deputies and the implication of Louis Ackal

 

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Richard Burgess and Lanie Lee Cook of The New Orleans Advocate report that a package of guilty pleas last month in a federal investigation of inmate beatings at the Iberia Parish Jail could be the first step in a growing probe into a pattern of abuse at the facility. Deputies have admitted beating three inmates during a contraband sweep in 2011, and the inmates who were beaten all claim that former jail warden and Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal was present during the sweep. However, none place him at the jail chapel where the beatings took place (The Advocate).

 

The question remains whether or not Ackal will be caught up in the federal investigation, which could obviously create big problems for the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Department. Five of the deputies involved in the beatings have made plea agreements to cooperate with prosectors, and the details of a sixth plea agreement have been sealed from public view (The Advocate).

 

“We don’t know what that means, but we think it means there is more to come,” said Baton Rouge attorney Donna Grodner, who represents two inmates whose abuse is at the center of the case (The Advocate).

 

One of those inmates, Curtis Ozenne, said in an interview Thursday that it was Ackal himself who directed deputies to take him to the chapel where the beatings took place: “He told the deputies and the warden to bring me to a secluded area and teach me a lesson. He’s the head. He’s the one the finger should be pointed at. He’s the orchestrator and dictator of what was going on at the jail” (The Advocate).

 

Ozenne’s allegations are the same as those made by Anthony Daye, another inmate deputies admitted beating in April 2011. Daye said in a 2011 lawsuit that Ackal was at the jail the date before the 2011 sweep, and returned with a team of deputies and oversaw the contraband sweep (The Advocate). Two deputies have pleaded guilty for standing by and doing nothing while at least one other deputy assaulted Daye in the chapel. The allegations of inmates about Ackal’s presence during the April sweep are supported by Iberia Parish jail warden Wesley Hayes. He has said in court documents that Ackal was helping to oversee the jail sweep and was present during discussions about taking Ozenne to the chapel (The Advocate).

 

American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Marjorie Esman has said about the investigation, “We’ve known the Iberia jail has been a hotbed of problems for a long time, so none of this is a surprise for us” (The Advocate).

 

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