Geary Staten, 31, a former supervisory correctional officer at Valdosta State Prison (VSP), pleaded guilty today in federal court to one count of misprision of a felony for his role in attempting to cover up an assault on an inmate incarcerated at the facility.
According to court documents and statements made in connection with the guilty plea, while Lieutenant Staten was on duty as a supervisory correctional officer at VSP, several VSP correctional officers unlawfully used force on inmate F.G. in violation of the inmate’s constitutional rights. Staten was aware of the assault but instead of reporting or otherwise notifying law enforcement authorities of these felony violations, Staten took steps to conceal the offense by (1) directing the involved officers (Officer Brian Ford, Officer Jamal Scott, and Sergeant Patrick Sharpe, all of whom have pleaded guilty to federal offenses in connection with the incident) not to write any report to VSP officials or any other Georgia Department of Corrections officials regarding the unlawful use of force; and (2) failing to write such a report himself, despite knowing such a report was required.
“It is important that corrections officers and their supervisors are held accountable for using unlawful, unnecessary, and unwarranted force against inmates, including those who fail to report such civil rights violations and take steps to cover them up,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will continue to hold correctional officials accountable when they violate the civil rights of incarcerated individuals.”
“Many corrections officers do honorable work, but officers and their supervisors who turn a blind eye or even cover-up crimes against the people under their watch are committing a serious offense that our office will simply not ignore,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary of the Middle District of Georgia. “Prisoners should serve their sentences without being assaulted or extorted; our office will work to uphold the civil rights of all people, including the incarcerated.”
“By violating his sworn oath as a corrections officer, Staten betrayed every honest, hardworking officer, and stooped to behaving like the criminals he was sworn to protect,” said Special Agent in Charge Keri Farley of FBI Atlanta. “The abuse of inmates by prison staff will not be tolerated by the FBI and will always be pursued for prosecution.”
Staten faces a maximum statutory penalty of up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 21.
Assistant Attorney General Clarke, U.S. Attorney Leary and FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Farley made the announcement. The case was investigated by the FBI and a local task-force-officer partner, and was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Katherine G. DeVar and Nicole Raspa of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Solis for the Middle District of Georgia.