Iberia Parish Sheriff and Lt. Colonel charged with conspiracy in assaulting inmates

Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal and Lt. Col. Gerald Savoy have been formally accused of violating the civil rights of a group of inmates at the Iberia Parish Jail. Ackal is charged with one count of conspiracy against rights and two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, and Savoy is charged with one count of conspiracy against rights and one count of deprivation of rights under color of law.. (Photo: Advertiser file photo)

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal and Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Savoy were charged today with civil rights violations arising out of the beatings of five pre-trial detainees at the Iberia Parish Jail on April 29, 2011.

According to the news release, Ackal is charged with one count of conspiracy against rights and two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, and Savoy is charged with one count of conspiracy against rights and one count of deprivation of rights under color of law.

The indictment alleges that Ackal and Savoy conspired with each other and with other officers to assault five inmates, identified by the initials C.O., S.S., A.T., A.D. and H.G., and that members of the conspiracy failed to intervene and stop the assaults.

Eight former Iberia Parish Sheriff Office employees have previously entered guilty pleas in related cases before U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi of the Western District of Louisiana.

The eight officers are former IPJ Warden Wesley Hayes, former IPJ Assistant Warden Jesse Hayes, former Lieutenant Bret Broussard of the Narcotics Unit, former narcotics agent Wade Bergeron, former narcotics agent Jason Comeaux, former narcotics agent David Hines, former narcotics agent Byron Benjamin Lassalle and former K-9 handler Robert Burns.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. If convicted, Ackal and Savoy 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.

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