A former Gwinnett County deputy was indicted Tuesday for violating an inmate’s civil rights and writing a false report.
The Department of Justice identified the deputy sheriff as 27-year-old Aaron S. Masters of Jefferson. He was assigned to the Rapid Response Team of the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office inside the Gwinnett County Jail at the time of the incident.
During a 2018 use of force review by the sheriff’s office, officials found “Aaron Masters’ actions were unprovoked and outside our established policies and procedures,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement Thursday.
“Aaron Masters was employed by the sheriff’s office for three years and had no disciplinary history prior to this incident,” the office said. “While his service record is unblemished, his lapse of judgment during this incident resulted in his separation from the sheriff’s office.”
A federal grand jury indicted Masters for unnecessarily assaulting the female inmate and writing a false incident report to justify his excessive use of force in 2018.
“We recognize that corrections officers have a difficult job as they maintain order and protect inmates in our district’s prisons and county jails,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said. “However, this deputy sheriff must be held accountable for allegedly abusing his authority by committing a violent and unnecessary assault on an inmate, and then writing a false report to cover up the incident.”
According to Pak, the indictment and other information presented in court, on Aug. 20, 2018, Masters is alleged to have repeatedly struck an inmate in the face with his closed fist without justification, injuring her.
The Rapid Response Team, where he was assigned, is a specialized unit which resolved high-risk incidents and provided general assistance in maintaining order in the jail.
Following the incident, Masters wrote a report about the encounter in which he falsely claimed the physical force was necessary to gain the inmate’s compliance.
“The vast majority of sworn officers working in our jails and prisons protect the civil rights of inmates no matter the difficult challenges they face,” FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Chris Hacker said. “It is an insult to those officers when one of their own violates those rights, and that is why Masters must face his peers in court for his alleged actions.”
The FBI is investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Alan Gray and Department of Justice Civil Rights Trial Attorney Tim Visser are prosecuting the case.
In 2018, Sheriff Butch Conway said of the case involving Masters: “Our deputies work hard every day to provide a safe community for citizens, inmates and staff alike. There’s no room for a quick temper in this job and this behavior will not be tolerated.”