United States Attorney Delia L. Smith announced indictments Friday against two former Virgin Islands Corrections officers and one current officer from the John A. Bell Correctional Facility on St. Croix, who appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller.
Friday was their initial appearance hearing after the federal grand jury returned the five-count indictment charging Maxwell Bryan, 51, Elvin Bloice, 70, and Jahmesha Bethelmie, 25, with excessive force, obstruction of justice, and false statements.
All three defendants were released on conditions imposed by Miller, including a $25,000 bond, remaining on St. Croix pending trial, surrendering their passports or other international travel documents to the court, and surrendering any firearms in their possession.
According to the indictment, on Sept. 17, 2021, Bryan used excessive force against a pre-trial detainee identified by the initials T.H., resulting in bodily injury. All three officers are charged with attempting to cover up the illegal conduct.
The indictment charges Bryan and Bloice with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law and aiding and abetting each other in depriving T.H. of his right to be free from unreasonable force by corrections officers. Further, Bloice is charged with making materially false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and all three officers are charged with one count of falsification of records in a federal investigation.
The maximum penalty for deprivation of rights is 10 years in prison. The maximum penalty for falsifying records is 20 years in prison, and the maximum penalty for making materially false statements is five years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
This case is being investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Evan Rikhye, assisted by the Criminal Section of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
Smith reminds the public that an indictment is merely a formal charging document and is not evidence of guilt; therefore, every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.