Former Russell County deputy pleads guilty in Patrick Harrington beating case

A former Russell County sheriff's deputy has pleaded guilty to federal charges he beat a handcuffed man last year.

Kirby E. Dollar Jr., 38, pleaded guilty to his role in the beating last year of Patrick C. Harrington. According to a plea agreement, Dollar faces up to four years and nine months behind bars, and has agreed to take the witness stand during the trial of his co-defendant, Timothy A. Watford.

Watford faces one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, a charge that could carry up to 10 years in prison.

In his plea agreement, Dollar admitted to assaulting Harrington, who "did not say or do anything to provoke the assault" and was lying handcuffed on the ground.

Prosecutors say Dollar and Watford beat Harrington -- a career criminal who had previous run-ins with at least one of the deputies -- after he was taken into custody by bondsmen. The officers allegedly had been drinking at a party before driving to Lee County to meet Harrington. Authorities said the deputies knew of Harrington’s outstanding warrants and arranged for a bondsman to call them once he was captured.

The plea agreement says Dollar used his badge "to facilitate" Harrington's assault.

"During the assault, Dollar and Watford invoked their authority as law enforcement officers by questioning (Harrington) about possible criminal activity," the plea agreement states. "Because they were law enforcement officers, Dollar and Watford were able to assault (Harrington) without interference from several bystanders."

Dollar's plea agreement also calls for an unspecified amount of restitution to Harrington.

“Law enforcement officers are granted a great amount of power to carry out their critical public safety responsibilities," Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. "They cannot be allowed to abuse that power to violate the rights of individuals in their custody. The Justice Department will vigorously prosecute those who cross the line to engage in acts of criminal misconduct.”

George L. Beck Jr., the newly-minted U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, said, “This office will aggressively prosecute those who use their law enforcement powers to violate the civil rights of others while in their custody. I applaud the FBI and Alabama Bureau of Investigation for their prompt and thorough investigation of this matter." Dollar's defense attorney did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Dollar did not return a call for comment. Court documents show Watford's trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 22 in Opelika, Ala.

A federal magistrate recently ordered Harrington be transferred from a state prison outside Montgomery, Ala., to federal custody so he can testify as well. Harrington, 32, is serving prison time for a probation violation.

Another likely witness at Watford's trial is Rachel Hauser, a former Phenix City police officer who was not charged criminally but accused in a civil lawsuit of accompanying the deputies to Harrington's beating.