Nine months after he was arrested and stripped of his sergeant’s job for allegedly assaulting an inmate at Franklin Correctional Institution, a 41-year-old Carrabelle man has been acquitted of federal charges stemming from the July 2014 incident.
William Ray, 41, was found not guilty in federal court in Tallahassee on March 10, following a four-day jury trial before US District Court Mark E. Walker of the Northern District of Florida.
Also acquitted was fellow correctional officer Corry B. Fletcher, 43, of Bristol.
Ethan Way, senior partner with the Tallahassee law firm of Gillis, Way & Campbell, said his client, Ray, was found not guilty of conspiring “to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate (anyone) from the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States,” a violation that could have landed Ray in prison for up to 10 years, as well as a fine.
In addition, both Ray and Fletcher, who was represented by a federal public defender, were acquitted in less than four hours by the nine-man, three-woman jury of a federal civil rights violation which prohibits anyone from acting under color of law to violate another’s constitutional rights, a violation that could have led to up to one year in prison, as well as a fine.
Ray was charged with the two counts following an alleged incident on or about July 20 and 22, 2014 while he was a sergeant at FCI.
The June 2015 indictment alleged Ray and Fletcher physically assaulted an inmate at FCI “without justification and caused the inmate bodily injury.
“They said he basically smashed an inmate’s head up against the wall,” said Way.
The two men were arrested June 10 and arraigned in federal court. The following day, June 11, Ray was fired by Warden Robin Smith from his job at FCI.
“He’s going to seek reinstatement,” said Way. “He’s hoping to go back with the folks at the prison system and try to work out something.
“He had an excellent record at the Department of Corrections, he was not a troublemaker,” said the attorney.
Ray began work as a correctional officer on May 6, 2005, and was promoted to sergeant Dec. 29, 2006. He earned an annual salary of about $34,000 at the prison, and after being terminated, started his own landscaping company, Way said.
“It was devastating to him and his family to have these charges brought in the first place,” said Way. “The just and fair result was the acquittal.”
The case was investigated by the FBI and FDLE, with the assistance of the Florida Department of Corrections – Office of Inspector General. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephen M. Kunz.
Way said the trial featured 19 witnesses, including former employees, inmates, and the FBI agent who was lead officer in the investigation.
In reviewing the verdict, the attorney pointed the finger at the powers-that-be in Tallahassee, who he said had abandoned the two correctional officers.
“These prisons are set in rural and remote locations, and it can be an economic generator for a lot of people. This is a hard thankless job,” he said. “When you’re in prison, you’re not there for misdemeanors.
“If an inmate accuses them of an offense, they can be hauled into court based on allegations from a person in prison,” Way said. “These people who go and work and take on these jobs aren’t really supported by the statewide department.
“I think it’s chilling. To some extent it’s a class attack; these aren’t your suit-and-tie guys. They aren’t your college graduates,” he said. “We need these people to help make us safe. The community is going to need good decent people to be prison guards.”