Former Rockbridge jail officials indicted on federal charges

From the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia: A federal grand jury sitting in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Roanoke has returned an indictment charging two former Rockbridge County Regional Jail officials with federal charges related to federal civil rights violations and falsifying documents to obstruct justice. First Assistant United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar and Adam S. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division made the announcement. An indictment returned under seal August 14, 2018 and made public today following the arrest of both defendants charged as follows:

John Marshall Higgins, 61, of Lexington, Va., is charged with four counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, specifically denying a detainee medical care of his serious medical needs, resulting in bodily injury. Gary Andrew Hassler, 58, of Lexington, Va., is charged with two counts of falsifying documents in order to obstruct a federal investigation.

According to the indictment, during his tenure as superintendent of the jail, Higgins, acting under the color of law, failed to protect the rights of inmates at the Rockbridge County Regional Jail from physical abuse, which resulted in serious bodily injury to the inmates.

In addition, the indictment alleges that Higgins, acting under the color of law, failed to protect the rights of inmates at the regional jail by failing to provide inmates with medical treatment, resulting in bodily injury.

The indictment also accuses Hassler, the former head nurse at Rockbridge County Regional Jail, with falsifying medical documents to impede a federal investigation. Specifically, on or about March 5, 2017, the indictment claims that Hassler falsified a jail medical log for an inmate by falsely claiming that on February 28, 2017, the inmate refused his medication.

Additionally, Hassler is accused of falsifying a Rockbridge Regional Jail Incident Report dated March 5, 2017 by falsely reporting an inmate refused medical care on March 1, 2017.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Virginia State Police. The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office for Rockbridge County assisted with the investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Zachary T. Lee and Matthew Miller will prosecute the case for the United States.

A Grand Jury Indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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