June 27--A grand jury has determined two former Monroe County deputies who pepper-sprayed a spitting inmate used enough force to warrant an indictment on criminal charges, including assault.
Sgt. Thomas Goodman and Capt. John Wilburn, who were allowed to resign following the Jan. 17 incident, were arraigned this week in Monroe County Criminal Court before Judge Carroll Ross on charges of assault and official oppression, court papers show.
A Monroe County grand jury on June 6 indicted both men, who had initially been arrested on misdemeanor assault charges.
A Circuit Court clerk on Tuesday said Goodman has retained attorney Steve Ward to represent him, while Wilburn has not yet hired an attorney.
The men, both free on bond Tuesday, are both due back in court next month for a hearing on the matter.
Earlier this year, Patrick Looper, an attorney who had been initially hired to represent the men, said the defendants acted properly under the circumstances, even though the inmate was already restrained in a chair.
The misdemeanor assault charges were filed after 10th District Attorney General Steve Bebb reviewed reports of the incident and a videotape.
In a letter to Bebb, Sheriff Bill Bivens said there was "no attempt to handle the situation by screening or blocking spittle, by repositioning the chair or otherwise removing the opportunity to be spat upon. It does appear that the use of force was intentional and deliberate."
But Looper said that no "spit mask" was available, and pepper spray "was the right tactical choice for this particular situation."
The deputies' wives also resigned from the Monroe County Sheriff's Department following the incident. No charges were filed against Sgt. Amy Goodman, a jail supervisor, or jailer Elin Wilburn.
Copies of the personnel files provided to the News Sentinel show no complaints or disciplinary actions against any of the four.
Bebb had initially said he would file no charges, but changed his mind after seeing the tape.
Looper said the tape alone does not tell all of the story.
Bebb and Bivens said the inmate has a prior history of fighting police. On Jan. 17, in jail for public intoxication, he began spitting at jailers and continued to do so after he was placed in a restraint chair, but ceased spitting after pepper spray was used, Looper said.
Pepper spray causes no permanent injuries, and the inmate's eyes were washed out, Looper said.
Bivens said in his letter to Bebb that after the inmate was pepper sprayed "at close range," then he was left alone for several minutes before any officer took action to clean him.
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