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Five former Daggett County Sheriff's Office employees, including former Sheriff Jerry Jorgensen, have been charged after a monthslong investigation into abuse of prisoners.
The charges say that abuse occurred by one deputy, and that three others were charged, including Jorgensen, for failing to stop the mistreatment.
The say that misconduct included using a stun gun on several inmates. The charges say Deputy Josh Cox told inmates he would give them soda if they could withstand being stunned for five seconds with his personal stun gun. He stunned five inmates, charges state.
Cox allegedly brought a K-9 unit into the jail and attempted to teach the dogs obedience training. Two people were bitten during the training.
Cox was charged with nine felonies and two misdemeanors, including seven felony counts of aggravated assault, each involving a stun gun. Cox, 27, was also charged with two counts of bringing a dangerous weapon a stolen stun gun to the jail; one count of theft of a stun gun and one count of reckless endangerment.
"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," Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a statement.
The charges allege Cox stole the stun gun when he resigned from the Smithfield Police Department in January 2016.
Jorgensen, 64, who said he was voluntarily resigning last month, was charged with misdemeanors for allegedly failing to safely keep inmates; obstruction of justice and official misconduct.
The charges allege Jorgensen intended to hinder, delay or prevent the investigation into the jail by providing false information regarding a criminal offense at the lockup. They also cite him with failing to investigate criminal conduct by his employees.
While the sheriff's office last month said Jorgensen "recognized the allegations as very serious and took decisive action," the charges state he waited nearly a year before asking the state to investigate.
The charges state that Jorgensen was told April 18, 2016, that Lt. Ben Lail, the former jail commander, pointed a stun gun at the feet of a woman identified as Jane Doe 2.
"Jorgensen denied knowing about this email, and denied he had any knowledge of, or training, involving Tasers despite training logs indicating the opposite," the charges state.
Lail, 31, was charged with a felony count of aggravated assault stemming from the alleged incident. The charges described Jane Doe 2 as a woman who was in the control room of the jail "performing authorized duties." Logan Walker, 26, and Rodrigo Toledo, 41, were also charged with misdemeanor criminal misconduct for failure to stop Cox from stunning the inmates.
The investigation led the Department of Corrections to withdraw 80 state inmates from the jail in February, resulting in a significant hit to the county's budget. Daggett County is paid for each inmate it houses, and the jail is a major employee in the county Utah's smallest, with a population of about 1,100. The jail remains empty.
The county and sheriff's office declined to comment on charges, according to a news release Friday evening.
The Department of Corrections said the FBI has asked to review the investigation.
In the wake of Jorgensen's resignation, the County Commission has placed itself in charge of the sheriff's office and jail temporarily as the county attempts to find a replacement.
The commission also has taken steps to contract with neighboring Uintah County to keep sheriff's office employees working until inmates are returned.
Commissioners took charge of the department rather than appointing Jorgensen's chief deputy, Chris Collett as the county was working toward a "culture change" sought by state corrections officials.
"As you know, the changes have occurred in the office," Commissioner Jack Lytle said Friday. "We're trying to help a staff that is in desperate need of recognizing their value to the county. We have lots of good people working for us." Rollin Cook, executive director of the Department of Corrections, said in a statement the department was working with county officials on the next steps.
"We will not return any state inmates back to this jail unless and until we have confidence the new leadership at the jail holds safety and security as its main concerns." The commission will affirm a new interim sheriff as soon as the county's Republican leaders pick a candidate, a process that has proved challenging in the small, remote county.
Prisoner advocates met with the remaining jail staff recently to hear about employees' plans to reform how the facility is run in the future, said Molly Prince, past president of the Utah Prisoner Advocate Network. "That meeting was completely focused on programs that they want to implement when the new jail administration is in place," Prince said, "so they can change it from a warehousing facility to a meaningful rehabilitation facility."