A fourth former prison guard has admitted spraying a chemical into the face of a handcuffed, kneeling inmate at a privately run Louisiana prison, then covering up the wrongdoing.
Online court records show Officer Quintail Credit pleaded guilty on Wednesday to conspiracy, which carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Prosecutors agreed to drop other charges against him.
The pleas verify statements by inmates who sued the former guards and other officials at Richwood Correctional Center near Monroe, said Steven A. Hansen, the inmates' lead attorney.
He said he was glad the men have pleaded guilty: "They certainly treated these people as animals. They acted as animals. The treatment was just reprehensible."
He said one of five inmates has been released and the others were moved from Richwood to other jails.
"I have not had an opportunity to see and talk with all of them in several months," he said.
Quintail's plea leaves one guard scheduled for trial. Five were indicted in March, months after the inmates filed suit.
Former Lt. Christopher Loring, scheduled for trial April 15, is accused of standing by while others sprayed inmates, then helping with a cover-up.
Credit, like former Officer David Parker and former Sgt. Demario Shaffer, pleaded guilty to plotting to conceal the wrongdoing.
Former Capt. Roderick Douglas pleaded guilty Jan. 29 to conspiring to violate the inmates' civil rights. A statement filed with his guilty plea said he used pepper spray on two inmates, then handed the can to other guards to use.
"Correctional officers deserve our respect for the jobs they do, but we must also hold them accountable when they willfully break the law and cover up the abuse of inmates," U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph said in a news release Thursday.
Richwood Correctional Center is a 1,100-inmate, medium-security prison operated by LaSalle Corrections in the Ouachita Parish town of Richwood. Douglas' signed statement, filed with his guilty plea, is the most detailed account of what happened there "on or about Oct. 30, 2016."
It said the officers rounded up inmates they suspected of gang activity and, after they repeatedly denied it, took them to an area without security cameras and put them on their knees, facing the walls, with hands cuffed behind their backs.
With a can of pepper spray in his hand, Douglas asked one man if he was a gang member, his statement said. The inmate again said no, and Douglas "sprayed the inmate directly in the eyes."
Douglas did the same to a second inmate, then gave the spray to another guard, according to his statement.
"Co-defendants Demario Shaffer, Quintail Credit, and David Parker each took a turn spraying the remaining inmates in the eyes, while Christopher Loring and another officer, D.R., remained in the room," the statement said.
The injured inmates were taken to have their eyes treated, and all five defendants filed false reports about why they needed treatment. Each said a guard had used pepper spray to control an inmate who had jerked away from him, and the other four inmates were also hit by that single spray, according to Douglas' statement.
Hansen said, "In the 45 years I have been practicing law I have never given a statement to the press either before trial or after winning a trial. But this behavior by these guards is so reprehensible."