Craig Billings, 39, a former deputy sheriff with the Murray County Sheriff’s Office in Sulphur, Okla., pleaded guilty today in federal court to a one-count information charging him with Deprivation of Rights for using unreasonable force and violating the civil rights of an individual who was being booked into the Murray County Jail.
According to court documents, on Oct. 8, 2011, Billings, while working in his capacity as a deputy sheriff, physically assaulted the victim, who was handcuffed at the time and not a physical threat to anyone. Billings tackled the victim to the ground, positioned himself over the victim, grabbed the victim by the chin and began to bang the victim’s head into the floor. In so doing, Billings subjected the victim to unreasonable force, punishing him for verbally offending Billings. As a result, the victim sustained a mild concussion and suffered pain and swelling to his head. Billings knew that he was prohibited from using physical force on a restrained arrestee who is not a physical threat, and assaulted the victim anyway.
“Every person in America has the right to be free from excessive physical force when they are taken into custody by law enforcement officers,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. “While the vast majority of officers uphold this right on a daily basis, the Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division will vigorously prosecute officers who do not act in accordance with the Constitution.
Billings was remanded into custody at the time of his guilty plea. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
This case was investigated by the Ardmore Resident Agency of the Oklahoma City Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dean Burris for the Eastern District of Oklahoma and Trial Attorney Fara Gold of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.