U.S. News

Ex-deputy acquitted on charge related to injury of Georgia child in raid

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A former sheriff’s deputy involved in a Georgia drug raid that left a toddler badly burned from a flash-bang grenade was acquitted on Friday on charges of providing false information for a search warrant, a spokesman for U.S. prosecutors said.

Prosecutors had said Nikki Autry, 29, an Habersham County sheriff’s deputy at the time of the operation, provided a judge with false information to obtain a search warrant that allowed the raid to go forward.

A federal grand jury in July indicted her on four counts of civil rights violations for allegedly depriving the occupants of the residence, less than 70 miles (113 km) northeast of Atlanta, of their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by a police officer.

The toddler, then 19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh, was asleep in his playpen during a “no knock” raid in May 2014 to arrest a suspect that police said had sold methamphetamine to an informant.

The suspect in the case, a relative of the family, was not in the house during the raid but was later arrested nearby, police have said.

Autry testified that she never lied to the judge when she asked for the warrant but admitted some of the information included in the affidavit was not entirely accurate, Atlanta station WSB-TV reported.

James Butterworth, the judge who authorized the warrant, told jurors on Thursday that Autry advised him a confidential informant made the drug buy at the house in the town of Cornella and saw weapons at the home, when in fact it was the informant’s friend who had bought drugs and no one had seen any weapons, the television station reported.

A jury acquitted Autry on all charges on Friday, said Bob Page, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Autry’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell has called the boy’s injuries from a flash-bang grenade devastating but an unintended consequence of the raid, saying police who tossed the grenade to distract any potential suspect did not know a child was present.

The child has undergone several surgeries, the family’s attorney, Mawuli Davis, said earlier this year.

“This was a tragic case, and a case that needed to be brought and presented to the jury. We are obviously disappointed, but we accept the jury’s decision,” U.S.

Attorney John Horn, whose office prosecuted the case, said in a statement.

Reporting by David Beasley in Atlanta; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Sandra Maler