Former Fulton jailer pleads guilty to choking female detainee

A former detention officer with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office pleaded guilty Tuesday to an excessive force charge in federal court for choking a female detainee until she lost consciousness in June 2023.

Monique Clark, 32, pleaded to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, which does not offer parole.

Clark was initially charged in Fulton with felony counts of aggravated assault and violation of oath by a public officer, as well as a misdemeanor count of reckless conduct, Sheriff Pat Labat said at the time. The case was picked up by the U.S. Department of Justice amid a spate of arrests involving law enforcement officers around metro Atlanta and Georgia.

Aside from Clark, 10 jailers from Fulton, Clayton and Cobb counties were arrested in the first half of 2023.

The victim in this case, Casey Bennett, filed a lawsuit against Clark, the city of Alpharetta and other law enforcement officers in November.

On June 5, Clark was working at the Fulton jail’s North Annex when Bennett was brought in by Alpharetta police. She had been at a hotel and was arrested on charges of public intoxication and criminal trespass. An officer’s body-worn camera footage showed her unleashing a torrent of expletives at the officers, though she never became physically violent.

Bennett was initially too drunk to be booked, so she was temporarily placed in a holding cell, according to her lawsuit. When she eventually began to move through the booking process, Bennett was wearing handcuffs and continued to be uncooperative. Clark put his hand around her throat and choked her until she fell unconscious.

When Clark choked Bennett, she was not considered a threat, federal officials said. As a Fulton jailer, Clark was expected to follow the agency’s policy prohibiting chokeholds and neck restraints except in the most dire situations.

Clark’s sentencing hearing has not been scheduled. A federal district court judge will determine his penalty, which could span a decade in prison.