According to a press release issued by federal prosecutors, the charges against Jeffrey Scott Cotney, 48, of Ashland are related to incidents that occurred between May 2009 and the spring of 2010, while he worked as the administrator of the Clay County Detention Center.
The first four counts in the indictment charge Cotney with coercing an inmate to submit to a sexual act on four separate dates between May 2009 and September 2009. Another count charges Cotney with denying that inmate’s rights when the administrator withdrew the inmate’s application to be transferred to a community corrections program in Barbour County without the inmate’s knowledge.
Cotney also faces two charges that he directed two inmates, one in August 2009 and the other in spring of 2010, to disrobe and then rubbed each inmate’s tattoos.
The eighth count charges that Cotney accused a fourth inmate of possessing prison contraband, ordering him into lockdown for 45 days and having him transferred to a state prison. According to the release, the indictment alleges that the inmate’s transfer and punishment were in retaliation for the inmate rejecting a sexual proposition from Cotney.
Reached by phone Wednesday at his current place of business in Ashland, Cotney declined to provide any immediate comment.
The former jail administrator could face a total of eight years in prison on all counts charged, according to the release.
“It is unacceptable for law enforcement officers who are entrusted with police powers to sexually abuse inmates,” said Joyce Vance, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, in a statement. “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.”
The FBI, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and assistant U.S. attorneys investigated the case.
Clay County Sheriff Ray Latham said Cotney was fired the day the sheriff took office, Jan. 11 2011. Latham, however, declined to comment on the reason for Cotney’s dismissal.
Efforts to reach Jean Dot Alexander, who served as sheriff during the time of Cotney’s employment at the jail, were not immediately successful Wednesday.
Latham said that since taking office he has instituted many changes to the administration and day-to-day operations of the office. Latham would not give specific examples of safety or security policies within the jail, saying that publicizing such procedures could endanger the jail’s staff.
Latham added that the Detention Center now houses state and federal inmates, and the jail must pass regular inspections associated with those responsibilities.
“Many things have changed here,” he said.
According to Latham, Cotney was replaced by Gaynell Traylor, a long-time employee at the Detention Center.
Assistant Metro Editor Daniel Gaddy: 256-235-3560. On Twitter @DGaddy_Star.