April 30 (UPI) — A South Florida juvenile officer has been charged for his role in the beating death of a 17-year-old boy by other inmates, the Justice Department announced Monday.
Antwan Lenard Johnson, 35, has been charged with conspiracy and violating the victim’s civil rights, the Justice Department said in announcing the grand jury indictment.
Johnson was arrested Monday morning as he arrived to work at the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center.
“The Justice Department will continue to aggressively prosecute corrections officers who exploit their position of power and violate the civil rights of individuals in their custody,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division said in a statement.
At his first court appearance Monday afternoon, prosecutors asked U.S. Magistrate Patrick White to set bail at $250,000.
The inmate, identified as “E.R.,” had been arrested and taken to the Miami-Dade Juvenile Detention Center on Aug. 28, 2015, on an armed robbery arrest in Miami Beach. The victim was assaulted by other juveniles two days later because of unspecified “statements and behavior” during dinner at the JDC cafeteria, court documents stated.
The indictment says Johnson encourage inmates to use violence to punish bad behavior by other inmates as part of a bounty system that included rewards.
Johnson told some of the inmates that he wanted them to attack the victim, prosecutors said. And they knew that they would not be punished or disciplined by Johnson and rewarded if they followed his directives.
When Johnson walked out of view in Module 9, one juvenile punched the victim in the face while he sat on a chair. Then up 20 juveniles joined in the attack, punching and kicking the teen, prosecutors said.
Johnson released all of the Module 9 inmates from their cells after he was taken to the JDC medical department, according to the indictment. As a reward, he allowed them to watch TV and receive snacks, prosecutors said.
On Aug. 31, the teen was pronounced dead due to bodily injuries sustained during the attack.
After the attack, five staff members were fired for failing to conduct youth checks and falsifying documents, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice said in 2015. But Johnson was not fired.
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christina K. Daly said in a statement Monday that the department is now “taking immediate action to terminate this employee.”
If convicted, Johnson faces a maximum statutory sentence of life in prison for each charge.
“The United States Constitution protects every person in this country, including those who are detained in juvenile detention facilities,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg said in a statement. “We are committed to bringing to justice the small minority of law enforcement officials when they abuse their authority and violate the civil rights of another.”
Last October, the teen’s beating and death were explored in a six-part Miami Herald series called Fight Club.