SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — A south Louisiana sheriff who was accused of encouraging or ignoring the beatings of black jail inmates was acquitted on federal civil rights charges Friday.
Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal was found not guilty on all charges, news outlets covering his trial reported.
"When they said that I was not guilty on all four counts, it was a great relief," Ackal told KLFY-TV (http://bit.ly/2e9TQgz). "It told me that the jury listened to my attorney."
The charges included counts of conspiracy, deprivation of civil rights and obstruction of justice.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Blumberg told jurors that Ackal condoned and encouraged excessive force and had no regard for the black community in Iberia Parish.
Ten deputies pleaded guilty in the case. Jurors heard from some of them. They described beating suspects and inmates and said Ackal knew of their actions and never disciplined them.
But Ackal's defense lawyer, John McLindon, argued that the abuses described were the work of members of a rogue narcotics unit. He told jurors that the deputies' claims against Ackal were not credible. He said they had taken plea deals after making false statements earlier before grand juries or in depositions.
"I was hurt because these were some of the guys that I considered to be friends," Ackal said. "They were not friends. They were users."
McLindon emphasized that nobody testified that Ackal "laid a finger on anyone," and said there were no records the sheriff could have looked at that detailed the beatings.
The case was tried in a federal courtroom in the northwest Louisiana city of Shreveport.