May 6, 2017 / 4:58 PM / 2 years ago

Former Utah deputy charged with Taser abuse, ex-sheriff accused of cover-up

(Reuters) - A former Utah sheriff’s deputy has been charged with aggravated assault for using a Taser to stun jail inmates after promising them soda if they withstood the ordeal, and the sheriff who oversaw the jail has been accused of covering up the alleged abuse.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office on Friday charged Joshua Cox, 27, a former Daggett County sheriff’s deputy with aggravated assault, transporting a dangerous weapon into the secure area of a correctional facility, theft and reckless endangerment.

Cox last Aug. 27 at the Daggett County jail promised several inmates a case of soda if they would allow him to use a Taser stun gun against them, according to charging documents. Cox then used the Taser on the men more than once, the court papers said.

Cox was charged with five counts of aggravated assault for that episode.

He was charged with another count of aggravated assault for using a Taser as an initiation rite on an inmate joining a work crew last Oct. 17, according to charging documents.

“The alleged actions of at least one defendant constitute unbelievably inhumane conduct and a reprehensible miscarriage of justice and the actions of all the defendants are inexcusable,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a statement.

Reyes’ office also charged former Daggett County Sheriff Jerry Jorgensen, 64, with misdemeanor criminal counts of failure of sheriff to keep inmates safe, obstruction of justice and misconduct, the office said in a statement.

Jorgensen is accused of providing false information to investigators and of failing to investigate reports of mistreatment of inmates in the county jail.

He resigned as sheriff in April after the inmate mistreatment allegations came to light, according to local media reports at the time.

Three other former sheriff’s employees face charges ranging from aggravated assault for threatening a woman with a Taser in the jail to misdemeanor misconduct for failing to report Cox’s improper use of the Taser on inmates.

Jorgensen, Cox and the three other former sheriff’s employees could not be reached for comment and it was unclear if they had obtained an attorney.

State officials have taken back inmates that it paid Daggett County to hold, citing safety concerns stemming from the case.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Chris Reese

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