Former Madison County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Watson is arrested, after he was indicted on five federal charges, stemming from a 2012 traffic stop.
Watson was indicted on two civil rights violations and three counts of obstruction of justice. The indictment alleges Watson willfully stopped and detained Robert Bryant without probable cause and reasonable suspicion.
It says Watson also physically assaulted Bryant, and deprived him of the right to be free from unreasonable force, and that Watson knowingly corrupted a person known as “A.B.” by telling them to “Keep your mouth shut” about a fight between Watson and Bryant.
The indictment also says Watson knowingly and intentionally misled a state court judge during a criminal case hearing.
A civil lawsuit alleges it all happened after a bar fight between Watson and Bryant.
Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning spoke Monday afternoon about former deputy Justin Watson arrest, and says the FBI is still investigating.
A civil lawsuit that was filed last year alleges seven other deputies were involved in the incident.
“His story is and always was the deputy got him out of the vehicle, punched him in the face, used the baton, tased him, and then when he woke up after being choked, there were numerous deputies on the scene and involved in the melee,” says Jeremiah Hodges, Bryant’s attorney in his criminal case.
A civil lawsuit was filed on behalf of Robert Bryant in March of last year about two months before former Deputy Justin Watson was put on administrative duty.
That lawsuit was settled, but alleges that it was actually a separate deputy who initiated the traffic stop.
That deputy is Jake Church.
A “J.C.” is mentioned in Monday’s federal indictment, saying Watson questioned J.C. about talking to the FBI.
The indictment also says Watson pointed an unloaded gun at the back of J.C.’s head. and pulled the trigger.
“Honestly, it breaks your heart. The things that were in the indictment, I was absolutely unaware of until this afternoon,” said Sheriff Blake Dorning at a press conference Monday afternoon.
Robert Bryant was actually arrested and charged with assault of a police officer when the stop occurred.
Bryant’s attorney in that case says he was trying to get records of the data points of where deputies cars were, to prove they were all in the same area at the same time.
“Frankly, it’s my contention that the criminal case was dismissed to avoid us getting those documents through the criminal case,” says Hodges.
Those documents were eventually released when the civil lawsuit was filed, and Jeremiah Hodges says it shows the deputies were all in the same area.
The FBI says it will hand over any documents and findings from their investigation to the sheriff’s department when the case is concluded.
“We will be very patient, and when this case is over, however this particular case ends, then we will review that case file that they’ve agreed to let us look at, and we’ll see what additional appropriate measures we should take,” says Sheriff Dorning.
“Frankly, I think it’s been a long time coming, and we’ve been contacted by the FBI, we’ve been contacted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, anticipated that this day was coming for a long time, and began to, to be quite honest, began to be concerned that it might not,” says Hodges. “So I’m certain, even though I haven’t had a chance to speak with my client about these events, I’m certain that he’s thankful that these are here, however, I’m sure Mr. Bryant would tell you that he still feels uncomfortable being in the state of Alabama given what he’s gone through.”
Watson resigned from his position as a sheriff’s deputy in May of this year.
A former Madison County Sheriff’s Office deputy turned himself in Monday after being indicted on charges related to a traffic stop that left a man badly beaten.
Justin Watson, 30, was indicted July 30 on two civil rights violations and three counts of obstruction of justice, federal prosecutors said.
Watson is accused of beating Robert Bryant in an August 2012 traffic stop.
Bryant claimed Watson stopped his vehicle and beat him in a revenge attack that stemmed from a previous bar fight between the two. Bryant was hospitalized after the traffic stop.
Bryant sued the Sheriff’s Office and settled in July 2014 for $625,000.
Federal prosecutors said the obstruction of justice charges come from Watson providing false testimony in court and persuading two witnesses. In the indictment, Watson is accused of telling one witness to “keep your mouth shut.”
The indictment also states Watson cut a second witness’s face out of a photograph with several deputies in it. When the witness asked why, Watson allegedly said “When did you go talk to the FBI?” He’s also accused of putting an unloaded handgun to the back of the witness’s head and pulling the trigger.
Watson faces 11 years in prison on the civil rights charges and 60 years in prison for the three obstruction of justice charges.
Watson resigned from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office in April. He had been working an administrative detail since May 2014, according to Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning.
Dorning said in a news conference Monday afternoon that his office had worked with the FBI during its investigation of the case, and he would be looking at the FBI’s case information later to determine if any other deputies violated department policies or rules.
Patrick Ary, “UPDATE: Former Madison Co. deputy indicted on civil rights charges”, WAAY 31 ABC, Aug 3, 2015, http://www.waaytv.com/appnews/former-madison-co-deputy-indicted-on-civil-rights-charges/article_4a118686-3a1c-11e5-ad06-0f575f2c121e.html