Ex-deputy gets 1 month confinement in Ga. jail death
A Chatham County Superior Court jury last month acquitted ex-deputy Jason Kenny of involuntary manslaughter in the January death of 21-year-old Mathew Ajibade
By Russ Bynum
SAVANNAH, Ga. — A former Georgia sheriff's deputy convicted for using a Taser to repeatedly shock a restrained detainee who later died in a cell was sentenced Friday to spend a month behind bars and will be allowed to serve the time on weekends.
A Chatham County Superior Court jury last month acquitted ex-deputy Jason Kenny of involuntary manslaughter in the January death of 21-year-old Mathew Ajibade. But Kenny still faced up to three years in prison after being found guilty of cruelty to an inmate. Instead he will spend most of his three-year sentence on probation.
Judge James Bass not only showed mercy to Kenny but also spared a second former deputy convicted of faking jail records and perjury. Maxine Evans, accused by prosecutors of trying to cover up failures to check Ajibade's medical condition, received six years on probation when she could have gone to prison for 40 years. Jail nurse Gregory Brown got three years on probation for making false statements to investigators.
Ajibade's cousin, Chris Oladapo, blamed prosecutors for a "splintered and disorganized case" that targeted rank-and-file jailers rather than lapses by Chatham County Sheriff Al St. Lawrence and his senior staff.
"Whatever sentence is handed down here today makes no difference," Oladapo said in an emailed statement. "These three people are just pawns, and those in leadership who are most culpable will be left unpunished."
Ajibade of Savannah was taken to the jail Jan. 1 on domestic violence charges after fighting with his girlfriend. A fight broke out as deputies tried to book him. Ajibade injured two deputies and snatched a Taser. He was disarmed after one deputy punched him in the face, dropping him to the floor, and another kicked at him — with one kick striking Ajibade in the head before another sent the Taser spinning across the floor.
None of the deputies involved in the brawl were charged with crimes after investigators concluded they were justified in using deadly force.
But prosecutors argued Kenny crossed a line when Ajibade was taken to a cell to be strapped into a restraint chair. While Ajibade's hands and feet were shackled, Kenny shocked him four times with a Taser — causing the detainee to scream out in pain.
"It was sadistic," prosecutor Christy Barker told the judge Friday, asking for Kenny to be sentenced to the maximum three-year prison sentence. "...This was totally gratuitous. Mathew was not a threat. Defenseless is defenseless."
Before imposing his sentence, the judge said Kenny had caused "some infliction of discomfort to Mr. Ajibade."
"And that concerns me a little bit," Bass said.
Kenny's attorney, Willie Yancey, said the former deputy has been suffering from depression and now works at a doughnut shop.
"He has a conscience," Yancey said. "There was no intent whatsoever to harm Ajibade. And we don't know to this day exactly what caused his death."
An autopsy found no single cause for why Ajibade died. Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner Kris Sperry told jurors during the trial that Ajibade was "stressed to death."
District Attorney Meg Heap has responded to criticism from Ajibade's family by saying her prosecutors had no choice but to focus on deputies whose actions were directly responsible for Ajibade's death.