Geary Staten, 31, a former correctional officer at Valdosta State Prison (VSP), pleaded guilty to a felony charge in federal court today for attempting to cover up an assault on an inmate being held at the facility.

According to court documents and statements accompanying the guilty plea, several VSP correctional officers unlawfully used force against inmate FG in violation of the inmate’s constitutional rights while Lieutenant Staten was on duty as a correctional officer with VSP. Staten was aware of the attack, but rather than informing or otherwise notifying law enforcement of these offenses, Staten took steps to cover up the offense by (1) confusing the officers involved (Officers Brian Ford, Officer Jamal Scott, and Sergeant Patrick Sharpe, all of whom have pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with the incident), not to write a report to VSP officers or other Georgia Department of Corrections officials regarding the unlawful use of force; and (2) failure to write such a report himself, knowing that such a report was required.

“It is important that corrections officers and their managers be held accountable for the use of 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 Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. “The Department of Civil Rights will continue to hold correctional officers accountable when they violate the civil rights of inmates.”

“Many law enforcement officers do a honorable job, but officers and their supervisors who turn a blind eye or even cover up crimes against those under their custody are committing a serious crime that our office simply will not ignore,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary from the Middle District of Georgia. “Prisoners should serve their sentences without being attacked or blackmailed; Our office will work to uphold the civil rights of all people, including those in detention.”

“By violating his sworn oath as a correctional officer, Staten has betrayed every honest, hard-working officer and condescended to behave like the criminals he was sworn to protect,” said FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Keri Farley. “Abuse of inmates by prison staff will not be tolerated by the FBI and will always be prosecuted.”

Staten faces a maximum statutory sentence of up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. A hearing on the verdict is scheduled for September 21.

This was announced by Assistant Attorney General Clarke, US Attorney Leary and FBI Atlanta Special Agent in charge Farley. The case was investigated by the FBI and a local task force partner, and was being prosecuted by trial attorneys Katherine G. DeVar and Nicole Raspa of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from US Assistant Attorney Michael Solis for the Middle District of Georgia.