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01/16/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/17/2020 10:32

Two Former Correctional Officers Plead Guilty to Federal Offenses Following the In-Custody Death of a Woman

Today, two more defendants pleaded guilty in connection with their roles in the death of Nimali Henry, an inmate in their custody. Henry, who had a rare blood disorder and other medical conditions, died in the St. Bernard Parish Prison in Chalmette, Louisiana, on April 1, 2014, after failing to receive treatment for her serious medical needs during the 10 days she was incarcerated there.

'Officers such as Andre Dominick and Lisa Vaccarella have a responsibility to protect the civil rights of all in their custody,' said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. 'The Department of Justice will continue to defend the civil rights of all citizens.'

'The protection for all of our citizen's civil rights is an essential part of our constitutional rights,' said U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser for the Eastern District of Louisiana. 'Violation of these entitlements, especially in this case by the correctional officers sworn to protect the rights of inmates, erodes public confidence in our correctional system. The public must be able to trust that correctional officers are fulfilling their duties honestly and are truthful during the course of federal investigations or face the consequences of their actions. Our office along with DOJ, state and local law enforcement agencies will continue to investigate and prosecute any violations of our citizens civil rights.'

'Captain Andre Dominick and Correctional Officer Lisa Vaccarella were responsible for the welfare of inmates at the St. Bernard Parish Prison. Because of the choices each defendant made, Nimali Henry failed to get the care and attention that she needed to address known medical conditions, leading to her death,' said Bryan A. Vorndran, FBI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge. 'The FBI New Orleans Field Office, in coordination with the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney's Office, remain committed to protecting the rights of all Americans, to include those incarcerated.'

Dominick, a former correctional captain, pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of Henry, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 242. In pleading guilty, Dominick - who was acting as the medical officer during Henry's incarceration - admitted that he knew that Henry had serious medical needs, but failed to take any reasonable steps to get her the medical attention she needed during the 10 days that she was in the custody.

Vaccarella, a former correctional deputy, pleaded guilty to one count of misprision of a felony. In pleading guilty to that count, Vaccarella admitted that she knew that other officers at the jail had willfully deprived Henry of medical treatment for her serious medical needs, but she failed to take any affirmative steps to alert federal authorities to this federal civil rights violation. In addition, Vaccarella pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI, admitting that, during her voluntary interview with the FBI, she lied to the FBI about her observations of Henry.

Vaccarella is scheduled to be sentenced on April 29, 2020. Dominick is scheduled to be sentenced on June 10, 2020. Dominick faces a sentence of up to life imprisonment. Vaccarella faces a sentence of up to eight years of imprisonment.

Previously, in related cases, former Corporal Timothy Williams pleaded guilty on Sept. 18, 2018, to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242. In pleading guilty, Williams admitted that he willfully disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm to Henry's health and safety by failing to take reasonable measures to address her medical conditions. On Jan. 7, 2020, former Deputy Debra Becnel pleaded guilty to making false statements in connection with the federal investigation into Henry's death, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001.

This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted jointly by Trial Attorney Christine M. Siscaretti of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chandra Menon and Tracey N. Knight of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.