Eric Walters, 39, and Franklin Brown, 35, formerly police officers with the City of Marion Police Department, in South Carolina, pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to using excessive force against a woman with mental disabilities on April 2, 2013, the Justice Department announced today.
Walters and Brown each pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law for using unreasonable force for their role in repeatedly tasing the victim when she posed no threat to either officer. Walters and Brown pleaded before U.S. District Court Judge Bryan Harwell in federal court in Florence, South Carolina.
According to the information and facts presented in court, in the course of detaining the victim, Walters tased the victim causing her to fall to the ground and injure her head. Once on the ground, Walters continued to tase the victim multiple times. Brown, subsequently, arrived on scene and proceeded to tase the victim as she was seated on the curb, restrained in handcuffs, and surrounded by law enforcement. In court, Walters and Brown admitted there was no legitimate law enforcement purpose for repeatedly tasing the victim as she did not pose a threat to the officers.
“The defendants abused their authority as law enforcement officers by repeatedly tasing a defenseless, compliant victim,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those who cross the line to engage in acts of criminal misconduct.”
“Law enforcement officers are entrusted with the state’s police powers to maintain and restore order,” said U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles for the District of South Carolina. “In this case, the officers abused that authority, and purposefully hurt the victim who at the time posed no threat to these officers or anyone else. No just society can tolerate this sort of abuse by those who wear the badge. I’d like to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the team in my office who worked together to ensure that these officers were held accountable for their misdeeds.”
Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date. Walters and Brown face statutory maximum penalties of 10 year sentences in prison and $250,000 fines.
The case was investigated by the Columbia Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Potterfield of the District of South Carolina and Trial Attorneys Nicholas Murphy and Henry Leventis of the Civil Rights Division.