Photo: File photo
Photo: File photo

Georgia prison guards charged with assaulting inmates

Three prison guards were charged with felonies for allegedly beating up two inmates, according to indictments returned this week in Johnson County.

The rare indictment contained no details of the alleged attacks at Johnson State Prison earlier this year or what prompted the assaults.

The state Department of Corrections also declined to provide details of the incidents because they are still under investigation, and would only provide copies of the charges against Lt. Jason Hurst, Jamal Foreman and Taurus L. Mosely, a member of a special tactical team.

They are each charged with simple battery against a person in custody, which is a misdemeanor, and violation of their oaths of office, a felony.

Hurst has worked for the Department of Corrections since Sept. 2, 2003; Foreman since Jan. 2, 2007, and Mosley since Feb. 1, 2016.

All three are suspended without pay.

Hurst and Foreman are charged with attacking inmate Matthew Blackburn on May 25. Blackburn, now 30, was convicted in 2014 in Berrien County of interference with government property and eluding police, which resulted in a five-year prison sentence. In 2015, Blackburn was convicted on three counts of possession of drugs by a prisoner.

Inmates Brandon Lee Womack and Matthew Blackburn were allegedly attacked by prison guards. (Georgia Department of Corrections)

Hurst and Mosely are charged with attacking 23-year-old Brandon Lee Womack, who is serving 10 years for a 2012 conviction for possession of methamphetamine in Chattooga County. The indictment did not include the date of the attack and the corrections department would not provide that information.

Inmate-on-inmate violence is somewhat common and local prosecutors are often tasked with bringing additional criminal charges against inmates housed in prisons in their respective judicial circuits.

Bringing criminal charges against officers is not common, though there is at least one federal lawsuit pending that accuses the prison system of knowingly letting officers abuse inmates.

In August, the Southern Center for Human Rights filed a federal lawsuit that accused Department of Corrections officials of turning a blind eye to — and sometimes encouraging — officers at Georgia’s medical prison to brutally beat inmates, a federal lawsuit alleges.

The suit said there were several occasions in which some officers at Augusta State Medical Prison “acted with evil motive” and “used force sadistically and for the sole purpose of causing pain or injury.”

>> RELATED: State prison system may have condoned violence

The suit detailed three inmates’ injuries: fractured eye sockets and jaws, bloody noses and mouths, unconsciousness, lacerations and severe bruising. The attacks took place when the inmates’ hands were cuffed behind their backs and in front of others, as well as in hidden settings, such as inside elevators where there are no cameras, the still-pending suit alleged.

Three months before the suit was filed on July 27, two officers named in that civil suit and a third who was not, pleaded guilty in federal court and were sentenced to five years probation for one count of deprivation of rights.

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