Jury begins deliberations in Baby Bou Bou case

Jurors have begun deliberating the fate of a former Habersham County deputy charged with civil rights violations in the maiming of a toddler.

Nikki Autry, 29, is accused of providing false information on an affidavit in order to secure a no-knock warrant for a suspected drug dealer. A SWAT unit tossed a flash bang device into a darkened room where they thought the dealer, Wanis Thonetheva, was staying. Instead the stun grenade landed in 19-month-old Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh’s playpen, causing severe injuries to his face and chest and possible brain damage.

Prosecutors say without the affidavit, which relied on untested informants, the May 2014 raid would’ve never occurred.

“This is an overzealous police officer … who had no respect for the people she’s investigating,” said U.S. Attorney Bill McKinnon in his closing argument Friday morning.

The defense countered that Autry was a well-respected, dedicated officer who has been scapegoated by her supervisors.

“The federal government has parachuted in to this matter because someone has to pay,” said defense co-counsel Michael Trost.

Autry has been the only law enforcement officer connected to the raid to face charges. She was forced to resign after a Habersham grand jury called her work “hurried and sloppy.” The Phonesavanhs were awarded $964,000 in a settlement reached with Habersham’s Board of County Commissioners and has civil suits pending against the other counties in the multi-agency task force.

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