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Four Former Louisiana Correctional Officers Sentenced in Inmate Death
The men were sentenced for Civil Rights Offenses
Cover Photo courtesy of InmateAid
Two former supervisors and two former deputies at the St. Bernard Parish Prison (SBPP) were sentenced to time in prison last week in relation to the death of 19-year-old Nimali Henry.
Former SBPP Captian Andre Dominick and Former Corporal Timothy Williams, both of New Orleans, were sentenced to five years and four years in prison respectively for being deliberately indifferent to Henry’s medical needs. Both men admitted to being aware of the fact that Henry had serious medical needs - including a rare blood disorder - which required medication and treatment but failed to take any reasonable steps to ensure she received treatment.
Dominick pleaded guilty to violating Henry’s civil rights. According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, in his plea, Dominick admitted that he had spoken with both Henry and her social worker, who confirmed her medical needs. He also observed Henry’s deteriorating physical condition over the 10 days she was incarcerated. In spite of this, Dominick - who was the acting medical officer on duty at the time of Henry’s incarceration - failed to get her the medical attention she needed.
Williams also pleaded guilty to violating Henry’s civil rights. In his plea, Williams admitted to being aware of Henry’s medical conditions and failing to procure treatment for her. Instead, Williams placed Henry in a holding cell away from other inmates in order to discourage her from continuing to file medical complaints. He also admitted to telling Henry’s fellow inmates to stop requesting help on her behalf.
“Nimali Henry’s death was not the result of neglect or a lapse of judgment. Her death was the slow, painful, and completely preventable result of the deliberate choices made by these defendants, each of whom knew that he had the constitutional duty to provide necessary medical care for a young woman who was completely dependent on them for help while she was in their custody,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Prosecuting corrections officers who intentionally violate their constitutional responsibilities is a critical part of the Department’s mission.”
“Captain Andre Dominick and Corporal Timothy Williams were responsible for the welfare of inmates at the St. Bernard Parish Prison,” said Special Agent in Charge Bryan A. Vorndran for the FBI New Orleans Field Office. “Correctional officers have a sworn duty to ensure that inmates are protected, rather than abused or neglected. Their actions are a disgrace to all correctional officers who serve ethically and continue to maintain high moral standards throughout our correctional facilities. Because of the choices each defendant made, Nimali Henry failed to get the care and attention that she needed to address her known medical conditions, ultimately resulting in her death. The FBI New Orleans Field Office is appreciative of its partnerships with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Louisiana and we remain committed to protecting the rights of all Americans, to include those incarcerated.”
Two former SBPP jail deputies were also sentenced to prison time over their roles in covering up the circumstances of Henry’s deaths. Former SBPP Deputy Lisa Vaccarella was sentenced to 21 months in prison with three years of supervised release. Former SBPP Deputy Debra Becnel, also of New Orleans, was sentenced to three months in prison followed by three months of home detention and three years of supervised release. Both women pled guilty to lying to FBI agents during a federal investigation. Vaccarella also admitted to failing to alert federal authorities that she knew other officers had denied Henry’s right to medical care.
“When officers obstruct justice and lie during investigations, it threatens our ability to prosecute civil rights cases and erodes the public’s confidence in law enforcement itself," said Pamela S. Karlan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "To ensure that justice prevails, the Department will continue to prosecute officers who lie to investigators and cover up crimes."
“The protection of all of our citizens’ civil rights is an essential part of our Constitution,” said U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “Violation of these entitlements, especially in this case by the correctional officers sworn to protect the rights of inmates, erodes public confidence in our correctional system. The public must be able to trust that correctional officers are fulfilling their duties honestly and are truthful during the course of federal investigations or face the consequences of their actions. Our office, along with the Department of Justice, the FBI, state and local law enforcement agencies will continue to investigate and prosecute any violations of our citizens' civil rights.”