NASHVILLE – A federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment yesterday charging two Lawrence County, Tennessee, Sheriff’s deputies with federal civil rights and obstruction offenses stemming from their use of unlawful force during the arrest of a 61-year-old man.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Henry C. Leventis for the Middle District of Tennessee, Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division and FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas DePodesta made the announcement.
According to the indictment, on Oct. 5, 2020, in Giles County, Tennessee, Sherriff’s Investigator Zach Ferguson and Deputy Eric Caperton, threw the victim to the ground, struck him multiple times in the head and caused his head to strike the pavement. As a result of these actions, the victim suffered serious injuries.
The indictment further alleges that the defendants attempted to cover up their misconduct by filing false reports. Finally, the indictment alleges the defendants obstructed justice by falsely telling criminal investigators that the victim’s upper body never touched the ground during the arrest and falsely claiming that the victim’s injuries were caused by punches that Ferguson delivered while the arrestee was still inside his van.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the excessive force charge and up to 20 years in prison for the obstruction charges. A federal district court judge would determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI Memphis Field Office investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Rascoe Dean and Special Litigation Counsel Michael J. Songer of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an accusation. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.