Dollar pleaded guilty on Aug.11, 2011, to willfully depriving the victim of his constitutional right to be free from the use of excessive force. Watford was convicted of the same charge by a federal jury sitting in Opelika, Ala., on Sept, 1, 2011, following a three day trial.
Evidence presented during the court proceedings established that Dollar and Watford, while acting in their capacity as law enforcement officers, punched, kicked and slapped the victim, who was lying on the ground in handcuffs and offering no resistance. The victim suffered multiple lacerations, facial fractures and a ruptured eardrum. Dollar admitted, and witnesses during Watford’s trial confirmed, that the attack was entirely unprovoked.
“These convictions and sentences demonstrate that the use of excessive force cannot be tolerated,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The vast majority of police officers do an outstanding job in protecting both the community and the rights of the accused, even in stressful situations. But when police officers use excessive force to punish arrestees, they will be held accountable.”
“As well intended as some officers may be, police activity must remain within constitutional bounds,” said George L. Beck Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. “Let these two convictions and sentences serve as examples of bad conduct that will be prosecuted by this office. Emotions cannot overcome good judgment. Zealousness cannot overcome good training. And brutality can never be a substitute for effective law enforcement.”
FBI’s Special Agent in Charge Lewis M. Chapman stated, “Today’s sentencing of former Russell County Deputies Kirby Dollar and Tim Watford brings some closure to a breach of trust by law enforcement officers. Law enforcement officers must always act within the bounds of the law under any circumstance and particularly while safeguarding our communities and citizens. The investigation of Civil Rights violations continues to be one of the FBI’s top priorities; and, these sentences reaffirm our commitment to enforcing those standards on ourselves and the law enforcement community.”
The case was investigated by the Mobile Division of the FBI- Montgomery Office and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Russell County Sheriff’s Office, the Lee County Alabama Sheriff’s Office and the Columbus, Ga., Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathan D. Stump and Jared H. Morris and Trial Attorney Benjamin J. Hawk of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.