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Jonesboro man pleads guilty to civil rights charges

By Mehgaan Jones

mjones@news-daily.com

A Jonesboro resident, and former correctional officer at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, pled guilty, in federal court, to violating an inmate's civil rights by using excessive force against the inmate, and obstructing a federal investigation of the incident.

According to a news release issued by Patrick Crosby, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia, Benjamin Montgomery, 47, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for the civil rights violation and 20 years for the obstruction of justice violation.

"Each count also carries a maximum fine of $250,000," said Crosby.

He said Montgomery was charged on Dec. 3 and pled guilty the same day, in Atlanta.

"The case was investigated by the United States Department of Justice-Office of the Inspector General," said Crosby.

According to United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates, the charging document and information presented in court stated that, on June 2, Montgomery, while working as a correctional officer in the penitentiary, physically assaulted an inmate, violating the inmate's constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

"Additionally, Montgomery admitted that following the incident, he wrote a memorandum to his supervisor about his force, in which he falsely accused the inmate of making aggressive movements toward Montgomery," the release stated.

Montgomery agreed that he wrote the false memorandum in an attempt to impede the investigation of the inmate's complaint, Crosby said.

"Correctional officers have a difficult job guarding and protecting inmates in our federal prisons. But under no circumstances can we allow an officer to abuse his power to commit violent assaults on an inmate, nor can we stand by and allow that officer to obstruct our investigations," said Yates.

Montgomery is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S District Court Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr., on Feb. 24, 2011.