Former Clay County jailer pleads guilty to abuse of inmates
by Daniel Gaddy
Feb 20, 2014 | 4911 views |  0 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A former Clay County jailer pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to charges of violating the constitutional rights of inmates, including using his authority to sexually abuse them.

Jeffrey Scott Cotney, 48, of Ashland entered his plea before U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler to four counts of deprivation of rights under color of law. According to a press release issued Thursday by federal prosecutors, the events occurred between May 2009 and the spring of 2010, while Cotney worked as an administrator for the Clay County Detention Center.

The release states Cotney ran the jail’s inmate worker program, recommending which inmates could participate in the program and supervising inmate workers.

Cotney, who was indicted in November, is scheduled for sentencing on May 27. He could face one year in prison for each of the four counts against him, according to the release.

Reached by phone Thursday, Cotney declined to comment on the case.

In his plea, Cotney admitted to violating the rights of four inmates. According to the release, the abuse included coercing one inmate into a sex act on four separate occasions; ordering a second inmate to an unjustified strip search; and forcing a third inmate to remove his clothing while Cotney inspected his tattoos, which involved improper touching.

The release also states that Cotney admitted to falsely accusing a fourth inmate of possessing prison contraband. In his plea, Cotney admitted that he ordered the fourth inmate into lockdown for 45 days and then had him transferred to a state prison, all in retaliation for the man rejecting a sexual proposition from Cotney.

As part of the plea deal, Cotney must register as a sex offender, and he will be prohibited from serving in law enforcement or in any other field in which he would have authority over others, such as a correctional officer or a bail bondsman.

Clay County Sheriff Ray Latham on Thursday declined to comment on the case, saying he had seen nothing official.

In a phone interview with The Star in November, however, Latham said he was not sheriff during the time of the abuse. According to the sheriff, Cotney was fired the day he took office, though Latham would not comment as to why.

Latham stressed that his administration put new policies in place to prevent such abuse in the future.

Efforts to reach Jean Dot Alexander, who served as sheriff during the time of the abuse, were not immediately successful Thursday.

The FBI and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamarra Matthews Johnson is prosecuting.

Assistant Metro Editor Daniel Gaddy: 256-235-3560. On Twitter @DGaddy_Star.

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