2 Ala. prison officers acquitted on federal excessive force charges
“He has always stated the only reason he used force was to get the young man under control,’’ said an attorney for one of the COs
By Carol Robinson
BRENT, Ala. — A federal jury on Thursday acquitted two state correctional officers on charges they used excessive force against a prisoner.
Four Bibb County Correctional Facility officers were initially indicted on the federal charges in 2020.
Sgt. Keith Finch and State Corrections Officers Jordan Thomas and Kevin Blaylock were indicted on charges or deprivation of rights under color of law in connection with the alleged excessive force.
Thomas and Sgt. Orlanda Walker were charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to cover up the incident.
The indictment alleged that on Sept. 12, 2018, Finch, Thomas and Blaylock used excessive force to punish a prisoner who ran out of his cell in the Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent.
After two officers took the prisoner to the ground, the prisoner curled up in a fetal position and was surrounded by multiple officers. Finch, Thomas and Blaylock then kicked the prisoner and hit him multiple times with their batons, injuring the inmate, according to federal documents.
Thomas and his supervisor, Walker, then obstructed justice by filing false reports that claimed “all force ceased” once the prisoner was on the ground, the indictment stated.
Only Blaylock and Finch went on trial Monday in Tuscaloosa County, and both were acquitted.
Thomas pleaded guilty Friday to excessive force and testified against Finch and Blaylock. The obstruction charge was dismissed.
Thomas was represented by attorneys John Lentine and Wendell Sheffield.
“On Friday, Jordan pleaded guilty and accepted responsibility for his actions in the case,” the attorneys said in a statement to AL.com, “and the government dismissed a separate charge against him.”
Thomas will be sentenced in March.
Walker, charged only with obstruction, successfully requested that case be tried separately from the other three and has not yet gone to trial.
After three hours of deliberation Thursday morning, the jury cleared Blaylock and Finch of any wrongdoing.
“My client is so happy,’’ said attorney Emory Anthony, who represented Blaylock. “He broke down in tears because he’s happy the system is working.”
“He has always stated the only reason he used force was to get the young man under control,’’ Anthony said. “The young man had been in a fight with one of the officers. My client heard a Code Red and came to the situation.”
“He, along with two other people, asked the inmate to cuff up, he wouldn’t cuff up and they had to use their batons,’’ Anthony said. “It is the correct verdict.”
Blaylock is still employed as a correctional officer at the facility. Finch was terminated from the ADOC and now sells RVs.
Finch was represented by attorneys Richard Jaffe and Michael Whisonant Jr.
Jaffe said Finch is a husband and father of six children who had loved his career in law enforcement. The family also broke down in tears at the not guilty verdict.
“It was just a real relief,’’ Jaffe said. “It was more than. It was a new lease on life.”
The attorney said he, too, cried. “Even though I expected it and hoped for it, it isn’t real until you hear it,’’ he said.
Had Blaylock and Finch been convicted, they faced a maximum of 10 years in prison on the civil rights charges.
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