A former Clay County jail administrator has been indicted for violating the civil rights of four male inmates by sexually abusing them or depriving them of their rights in other ways.
A federal grand jury indicted Jeffery Scott Cotney, a 48-year-old man from Ashland, on eight counts of deprivation of rights under color of law.
The incidents happened between May 2009 and spring of 2010 while Cotney was an administrator at the Clay County jail. The charges involve four different male inmates at the Clay County Detention Center, according to U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.
Four of the counts accuse Cotney of coercing an inmate to submit to a sexual act on four different days between May 2009 and September 2009. A fifth count involves the same inmate.
Authorities say Cotney deprived the inmate of his liberty by withdrawing his application to be accepted into a community corrections program in Barbour County. The indictment says Cotney "falsely represented the inmate's interest" in the program and withdrew the application without the inmate's knowledge so he wouldn't leave the Clay County facility.
Two counts allege that Cotney asked two other inmates, at two separate times, to take off their clothes, and then he rubbed the tattoos on their body.
One of the instances allegedly happened in August 2009 and the other in spring 2010. Federal authorities say Cotney deprived the inmates of "their constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and to possess bodily privacy and integrity."
In the eighth count, Cotney is charged with ordering an inmate into lockdown for 45 days after falsely accusing him of having contraband, then transferring him into a state prison because the inmate rejected Cotney's sexual proposition, Vance said.
In that count, the former jail administrator is accused of depriving the inmate of his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
"It is unacceptable for law enforcement officers who are entrusted with police powers to sexually abuse inmates," Vance said in a release.
"People convicted of crimes are to be punished by the justice system according to the rule of law. They should not be subjected to a deprivation of their constitutional rights by one who abuses the power of his badge for personal gratification," she added.
The Clay County Sheriff, Ray Latham, fired Cotney on the day he first assumed office in January 2011.
"I can assure the citizens of Clay County under this administration our employees hold an oath of loyalty and integrity and commitment to the citizens they serve," Latham said.
Latham said the allegations did not just stem from the inmates but also from jail personnel.
The FBI and ABI investigated the case. If he is convicted, Cotney could face up to eight years in prison on each of the counts he faces.
So far, neither Cotney nor his attorney have commented on the indictment.
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