Ex-deputy gets 5 years for beating inmate - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Ex-deputy gets 5 years for beating inmate

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Tribble leaves federal court after the sentencing. Tribble leaves federal court after the sentencing.
A still frame taken from surveillance video that shows Tribble beating Shelley. A still frame taken from surveillance video that shows Tribble beating Shelley.

By Jody Barr - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – The former Kershaw County sheriff's sergeant charged with beating a handcuffed inmate with a steel police baton will spend the next five years and three months in a federal prison.

Federal jurors Monday found Oddie Tribble, 51, guilty of violating Charles Shelley's civil rights in August 2010, after a jailhouse security camera caught the beating. Tribble hit 38-year-old Shelley 27 times in 97 seconds.

The videotaped beating is not the first time Tribble was accused of hitting a handcuffed arrestee with his steel baton. Federal investigators uncovered a March 2008 beating case that was investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division and then turned over to 5th Circuit Solicitor Barney Giese and Deputy Solicitor John Meadors.

In the 2008 case, Tribble was working security for then-sheriff Steve McCaskill when Tribble beat a college student from Charleston with his baton. The student was handcuffed at his wrists and ankles, US District Judge Cameron Currie said. The student, who was drunk, during the arrest suffered a broken wrist, and another deputy told investigators Tribble hit the student in his abdomen with the baton.

"There were quite a lot of injuries all over the body," Currie said after reviewing the student's medical records. The case was turned over to Giese's office shortly after SLED closed the case, but charges were never brought, according to Currie. "It sat there a long time until the FBI asked for it," Currie said Monday.

Several people spoke during the sentencing hearing about Tribble's character, including state Senator Vincent Sheheen and former Kershaw County Stephen McCaskill. Sheheen asked Currie for leniency in sentencing Tribble, "Oddie Tribble is one of the good people that I know," Sheheen said. "He exuded respect, he played by the rules." The senator talked about how Tribble volunteered his time to gang prevention projects in the county. "There are not many people I would go out on a limb for," Sheheen said.

McCaskill was sheriff during the 2008 beating incident. Tribble's personnel records from the state Criminal Justice Academy do not show where Tribble ever received any disciplinary actions from the 2008 incident, and McCaskill refused to release Tribble's records to WIS after a Freedom of Information Act request was filed in August 2010 requesting the records.

"He always gave 110 percent," McCaskill told Currie during Monday's sentencing. "He was a blessing to us."  McCaskill, who fired Tribble after the video was discovered, told the judge, "This unfortunate incident is totally out of character for him. He is a great man and any leniency you can show for him would be greatly appreciated by the people of Kershaw County," McCaskill told Currie.

"What Oddie Tribble did was outlandish, it was not necessary," Assistant US Attorney Beth Drake said. "He essentially tried to beat the heck out of a smart aleck arrestee and that is what police officers do every day, is arrest people that sometimes are belligerent. Oddie Tribble is the master of his destiny here, he beat the heck out of a guy while he was wearing a badge and that is unacceptable and he will pay for it."

There have only been six other cases prosecuted in the United States with similar facts in the Tribble case, Currie said Monday. The average sentence in those cases was 63 months, Currie said. The crime carried a maximum of 10 years, but Currie said that range would be "inordinately high." The judge handed down the 63 month sentence Monday morning.

The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for the better part of two days before deciding to convict 51-year-old Oddie Tribble in February. The jury convicted him of using excessive force on a handcuffed inmate.

"The defendant was granted considerable power to enforce the law, but instead abused his authority when he beat a handcuffed man entrusted to his care," stated Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "This prosecution reflects the department's commitment to rooting out official misconduct, and today's sentence sends a message that such violent abuse will not be tolerated."

"Oddie Tribble's conviction and sentence demonstrate that we are a nation of laws, and that no man is above the law, most especially those of us that are responsible for enforcing the same." said U.S Attorney Bill Nettles.

This case was investigated by the Columbia, S.C., Division of the FBI with assistance from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, and was prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Beth Drake, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara McGregor, and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Christopher Lomax.

Tribble and his attorney, Greg Harris, declined to talk about the sentence Monday, but said they were looking at "our options."

Shelley declined to speak during the sentencing hearing and declined to talk with reporters when he left the courthouse Monday.

Tribble was also ordered to pay restitution of $5,000 to Shelley.

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