Fulton jailer acquitted in excessive force case

A Fulton County jailer accused of using excessive force on an inmate, then writing a false report about it, has been acquitted of all charges.

Lee M. Hutley, 32, was found not guilty by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle following a two-day trial this week.

The government alleged Hutley was not justified when he used pepper spray on the inmate and hit him repeatedly on March 6, 2009.

Hutley maintained he followed procedure in dealing with an unruly, threatening inmate.

His attorney, Mark Harper, described Hutley's defense this way:

"I was doing my job, it's a tough job and there are some tough customers in this jail," said Harper, who defended Hutley along with attorney Randolph Mayer. "It's impossible to keep a semblance of order in this jail ... if you don't follow the rules. He followed the rules."

Hutley was fired after the incident. He had worked as a detention officer for 2 1/2 years. Hutley has since moved from Austell back to Philadelphia, where he works at a restaurant, Harper said.

The case stemmed from two incidents on the same day.

Harper said the inmate, who was awaiting trial on an arson charge, was in solitary confinement for previous disciplinary problems at the jail. The inmate popped his cell door open using a technique prisoners know, Harper said.

Hutley responded. He was walking the inmate to an administrative zone when the inmate got loud and said he was going to spit on Hutley, Harper said. That's when Hutley pepper-sprayed him.

After the inmate was "decontaminated" and returned from the medical ward, Harper said, "now he's got to get back into his prison garb, the kind you wear on the lockdown floor. He has to take off his clothes, take off the handcuffs."

The inmate threatened Hutley and came at him, Harper said. Hutley struck him and they wrestled to the ground, according to Harper.

The inmate suffered only minor injuries and refused treatment, Harper said.

Videotape of the incidents "just didn't show what the government thought it showed," Harper said.

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “This verdict, while disappointing, will not dampen our resolve to eliminate inmate abuse in our jail and prison system. Because the defendants in these cases are law enforcement officers and the victims are inmates, they always are difficult to prove in a trial, and this case presented a challenging fact situation because of the relative minor nature of the victim’s injuries. But we believe that it was important to present the evidence to a fact finder, and we will continue to protect the rights of our citizens to be free from abuse -- even those in prison.”