A win for the public

F.B.I. Press release 

Former Federal Corrections Officer Sentenced to Life in Prison on Civil Rights Charges Related to Fatal Assault

WASHINGTON—Erin Sharma, a former corrections officer with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, was sentenced today in federal court in Orlando, Fla., on federal civil rights charges related to the fatal assault of an inmate, announced Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney A. Brian Albritton of the Middle District of Florida. Sharma was sentenced to serve a term of life in prison, three years of post-release supervision, and 75 hours of community service.

On July 29, 2009, a federal jury in Orlando found Sharma guilty of two felony federal civil rights charges related to the fatal assault of federal inmate Richard Delano in March 2005. The evidence at trial showed that on Feb. 28, 2005, Sharma and a co-conspirator agreed to move Delano into the cell of another inmate at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman, Fla. The evidence also showed that Sharma and the co-conspirator knew that the other inmate was likely to assault Delano and that this move was in retaliation for a prior altercation between Delano and Sharma. Sharma also encouraged the inmate to assault Delano. The co-conspirator moved Delano into the inmate’s cell on March 1, 2005, and the inmate assaulted Delano three days later, on March 4. On March 17, 2005, Delano died from the injuries he suffered during that assault.

“The brave work of our nation’s law enforcement officers must be guided by adherence to the laws they are sworn to uphold, and the overwhelming majority of officers abide by that principle,” said Assistant Attorney General Perez. “When law enforcement officers betray the great trust placed in them by abusing the individuals in their custody, the Justice Department will vigorously investigate, prosecute and seek appropriate punishment for those actions.

A Multnomah County jury Monday ordered the city of Portland to pay three men a total of $175,000 for a 2007 encounter with police at a downtown parking garage in which the men accused officers of battery, assault and false arrest.

The jurors found the testimony of two independent witnesses especially compelling. The witnesses, a young college couple, saw the entire episode and corroborated the stories of the three men: Harold Hammick, Ri’Chard Booth and Alex Clay.

"Justice does work," Clay said after the verdict. "The system does work."

A city attorney had argued last week during the trial that police were acting within the law when they stopped and detained the three man in the early morning after St. Patrick’s Day 2007.

The confrontation ended successfully, Portland city attorney Bill Manlove said, because there were "no injuries, no gunshots, no deaths, no high-speed chases, no foot pursuit.

"Everyone went home safe," Manlove said.

But the three young men claimed they were frightened and confused about why they had been stopped by officers who, they say, never offered an explanation.

Greg Kafoury, the attorney for the men, said that the city’s defense had invoked an ugly stereotype of young black men as belligerent, confrontational and profane.



CHARLESTON, WV –  The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal discrimination lawsuit on behalf of the surviving family members of a Welch man who died of a heart attack after the police chief physically prevented his friend from performing CPR.  The police chief blocked the CPR because he falsely assumed that the man, who was gay, was HIV positive and therefore a health risk.


The man who spent more than two decades in state prison before being exonerated by DNA testing in the brutal rape and murder of two Plainfield children has filed a lawsuit against authorities.

But Scheck added juries have awarded plaintiffs $1 million for each year spent wrongly imprisoned, just for pain and suffering, and he believes Halsey is in a unique position to also demonstrate police fabricated his confession.

Byron Halsey, now 48, is seeking unspecified monetary damages for what he describes as an overly-aggressive, careless police investigation that led to his coerced confession 22 years ago.



Marine widow cleared of murdering husband files $20 million federal lawsuit

SAN DIEGO – A widow cleared of murdering her Marine husband has filed a $20 million lawsuit in San Diego, alleging her constitutional and civil rights were violated.

The suit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, names the federal government and the San Diego County medical examiner’s office and district attorney’s office, among others.

Cynthia Sommer spent more than two years in jail, charged with poisoning her 23-year-old husband to cash in on his military death benefit. She was convicted in 2007 but a year later was granted a new trial.

The government dropped its case in April 2008 when new tests showed no arsenic in Todd Sommer’s preserved tissue.

Cynthia Sommer says her goal in bringing the suit is to make sure "this doesn’t happen to other people.



The City of Rome agreed Thursday to pay $62,500 to settle a federal lawsuit stemming from allegations that a Rome police officer used excessive force in falsely arresting a man.

Although the terms of the settlement include paying $30,000 to plaintiff Paul Williams, as well as $7,500 to his 12-year-old step-daughter who witnessed the arrest, Rome’s corporation counsel noted that the city was not required to admit any wrongdoing.

The city will also have to pay $25,000 in attorney fees.



Talladega, Alabama – A Talladega County jury has convicted a former Lincoln police sergeant of murder in the death of a Louisiana man.



POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. — A federal jury has awarded $35,000 to a southeast Missouri man after ruling that two police officers violated his civil rights during a traffic stop in 2006.

Taylor was stopped for allegedly rolling through a stop sign. His attorney says Bullock struck and used tear gas on Taylor, causing him to be hospitalized with a fractured rib and a bruised heart and liver. Lawrence was cited for failing to intervene.



WASHINGTON—A one-count bill of information filed today in federal court charges New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Officer Robert Barrios with conspiring with fellow NOPD officers to obstruct justice by covering up a police-involved shooting in the days after Hurricane Katrina, the Justice Department announced today.

The Sept. 4, 2005, shooting on the Danziger Bridge left two civilians dead and four others seriously injured. According to the bill of information, Barrios and other officers rode in a large Budget rental truck to the Danziger Bridge, where they encountered a group of civilians who were walking across the bridge to get food and supplies from a supermarket.

On the east side of the bridge, officers fired at the group of civilians, killing one man and seriously wounding four members of a family. Officers then traveled to the west side of the bridge, where they encountered Lance and Ronald Madison, who were crossing the bridge on their way to the dentistry office of one of their other brothers. On the west side of the bridge, an officer shot and killed Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old man with severe mental and physical disabilities.




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