MIAMI – An officer at a Florida juvenile detention center was arrested Monday on federal civil rights charges after a 17-year-old died in a beating by other inmates that was allegedly encouraged by the officer using a bounty and reward system.
An indictment unsealed Monday accuses Antwan Lenard Johnson, 35, of conspiracy and deprivation of the teenager's rights under color of law. Johnson had an initial court hearing Monday but did not enter a plea. His lawyer declined comment.
The indictment claims Johnson used bounties and rewards so inmates at the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center would use violence to punish bad behavior by other inmates. The 17-year-old who died was identified only as "E.R." in court documents but a Department of Juvenile Justice statement identified him as Elord Revolte.
Prosecutors said Revolte was fatally assaulted by other juveniles in August 2015 because of unspecified "statements and behavior" that challenged Johnson's authority. The inmate rewards included extra recreation time, such as watching more television, and snacks.
Miami U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg told reporters the inmate assault system was "commonly" used by officers at the detention center to enforce their authority and ensure obedience. He said the officers used code words, such as "off my face," and gestures to indicate to the inmates that he wanted someone assaulted.
"Officer Johnson had a duty to protect these individuals," Greenberg said. "With deadly consequences, Officer Johnson did exactly the opposite of what he had a duty to do."
The practice of incentivized beatings and details of Revolte's assault and death were reported in a series of articles in October by the Miami Herald.
Greenberg would not comment on whether other officers at the Miami detention center are under investigation. Each of the two federal charges carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Christina Daly, secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice, said the agency fully cooperated in the investigation into the boy's death. Daly said Johnson would be fired from his position.
"It is our expectation that any staff who jeopardize the safety of youth be held fully accountable for their actions, including criminal prosecution. The behavior detailed in the indictment is appalling and inexcusable," Daly said in a written statement.
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