Former Angola guards sentenced over brutal beating of inmate

Reuters/Richard  Carson
​Three former corrections officer at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, LA were sentenced this week over a 2010 attack in which a restrained inmate with a severely beaten with a metal baton.

One former jailer, Mark Sharp, was handed a 73-month sentence on Thursday this week by United States District Judge James J. Brady for the Middle District of Louisiana, seven months after the ex-Angola guard pleaded guilty to civil rights violations related to the January 2010 incident.

Two other former Angola officers who witnessed the attack but did nothing to stop it were sentenced to probation and minor fines, the Department of Justice announced on Thursday, and another, Jason Giroir, is scheduled to be sentenced later this month after admittedly falsifying a report about the incident and making false statement about it to federal investigators.

The assault itself occurred five years ago this month when the inmate, Roy H. McLaughlin, Jr., surrendered to authorities outside of Angola shortly after he successfully escaped from the prison. According to the complaint filed by McLaughlin in 2010, Sharp “deliberately, maliciously [and] sadistically” beat the inmate with a metal rod after he was apprehended and restrained with handcuffs following the escape.

“Try and crack his skull,” McLaughlin claimed Sharp ordered another corrections officer while the inmate laid belly-down with his hands shackled behind his back in the rear of a prison pick-up truck shortly after the escape.

McLaughlin said in the initial complaint that he was beaten with metal extension batons about 30 times, and a subsequent trip to the prison’s medical unit revealed fractures to the inmate’s toe, legs, buttocks, hands, elbows and skull.

In June, Sharp, 33, pleaded guilty to civil rights violations in connection with the incident and admitted that he repeatedly hit McLaughlin with a baton during the drive to the medical unit. The other former Angola officers sentenced this week — Kevin Groom, 47, and Matthew Cody Butler, 29, previously pleaded guilty to charges that included making false statements to the FBI, falsifying a statement and misprision of a felony, after having "engaged in various conduct to cover-up the assault,” according to the DOJ.

“The vast majority of American law enforcement officers conduct themselves with honor,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement announcing the judge’s sentencing this week. “But when law enforcement officers abuse inmates and attempt to cover-up their misconduct, the Department of Justice stands ready to hold those officers accountable for their conduct.”

“It is unfortunate that the defendants’ criminal activities threaten to overshadow the courageous and outstanding work performed every day by the vast majority of law enforcement officers, both inside and outside the penal system,” added J. Walter Green, a federal prosecutor who represented the US government for the Middle District of Louisiana.

Previously, McLaughlin was awarded $8,000 after he settled a lawsuit filed over the ordeal, according to an August 2014 edition of Prison Legal News. McLaughlin is serving a life sentence for the 1998 killing of his wife.