After being accused of sexually abusing a female inmate, a former Bureau of Prisons (BOP) corrections officer in Alabama was sentenced to 18 months behind bars and five years of supervised release Tuesday.
Eric Todd Ellis, 32, “knowingly engaged in a sexual act” with the inmate under his custody while on duty at the FCI-Aliceville facility in Alabama in the prison’s laundry room in June 2020, federal officials said in court documents.
He’s also accused of admitting his actions to a fellow corrections officer, whom he asked to lie for him while under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
”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,” Ellis said to his coworker during a recorded phone call, according to court documents.
McClatchy News did not immediately receive a response from the Department of Justice, while a BOP spokesperson said in a statement the bureau “takes seriously our duty to protect the individuals entrusted in our custody as well as maintain the safety of correctional staff and the community.”
Before the federal court in Birmingham, Alabama, handed over Ellis’ sentence, he pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse of a ward and one count of tampering with a witness after “knowingly attempting to corruptly persuade that corrections officer to provide false information,” court documents state.
“Ellis sexually abused an inmate and then tried to cover it up,” James F. Boyersmith, special agent in charge with the OIG Miami Field Office, said in a Department of Justice news release.
U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona of the Northern District of Alabama said “the sexual abuse of prison inmates by federal corrections officers is intolerable” and warned that her office will “vigorously investigate and prosecute any such officers who violate their oath of office.”
“Prison employees who abuse their positions of power to sexually assault individuals in their custody, and then attempt to cover up their crimes, will be held accountable,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said.