A former correctional officer with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, who worked at a facility in Alabama, pleaded guilty in court Tuesday to charges of sexually abusing an inmate and witness tampering.
Prosecutors say Eric Todd Ellis, 32, sexually abused a female inmate identified in court documents as E.M.S in June of 2020. While working at the medium-security prison in Aliceville, Ellis penetrated the woman with his genitalia as the duo stood alone in the back of a laundry room at the prison.
The Justice Department said Tuesday that Ellis was on duty as the assault occurred and was “acting in his capacity” as a corrections officer, therefore giving officials grounds to press federal charges. He’s alleged to have later bragged about his conduct to a coworker.
Later on, in September, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General opened an investigation into Ellis’ conduct. The former prison official was recorded on a phone call discussing the investigation with the same coworker he previously bragged to about the assault.
“Just tell [the OIG agents], yeah, we’re friends, but, I mean, you hadn’t really talked to me about it. And when you have it’s — I’ve just told you that nothing happened,” he said.
In his signed plea agreement, Ellis admitted to “attempting to corruptly persuade” his coworker into providing false information about his abuse in an effort to “hinder, delay, and prevent” the other officer from speaking to federal agents about the crime.
The case was prosecuted by several Assistant US Attorneys working for the criminal section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, headed up by Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke.
“Inmates detained inside jails and prisons have the right to be free from sexual assaults and sexually abusive behavior,” Clarke said. “The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable prison employees who exploit their positions of power to sexually abuse individuals in their custody, and then attempt to cover up their misconduct. Corrections officers who commit sexual assault have no place inside the Bureau of Prisons, and we will continue to fight for justice for victims of these despicable crimes.”
The FBOP told Ethanb822 Tuesday that the bureau takes allegations of staff misconduct extremely seriously and, if true, will take steadfast action to resolve the matter.
“The Bureau of Prisons is committed to ensuring the safety and security of all inmates in our population, our staff, and the public. Humane treatment of the men and women in our custody is a top priority,” BOP spokesperson Randilee Giamusso said. “Allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated and appropriate action is taken if such allegations are proven true, including the possibility of referral for criminal prosecution when appropriate.”
Ellis was convicted on one count of sexual abuse of a ward and one count of tampering with a witness. Under federal sentencing guidelines, he could face up to 35 years behind bars when he returns for sentencing on October 26th, however, federal prosecutors said in court documents that they will seek an “appropriate reduction” in his sentence because he accepted responsibility.