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Swain jail being investigated for excessive force

swainOne deputy is under investigation while another has resigned after allegations surfaced regarding excessive force being used on inmates at the Swain County Jail.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations is now investigating the allegations of excessive force used by Deputy Robert Clark on Tuesday, June 2, when jailers and deputies were subduing an inmate who was physically resisting.  

“This is an ongoing investigation and the SBI will not provide further comment at this time,” said SBI spokesperson Teresa West.

West did say the investigation was initiated at the request of District Attorney Ashley Welch on Wednesday, June 3 — the same day another Swain County deputy and detention officer resigned.  

Deputy Adam Cutler submitted a resignation letter June 3 to the sheriff and copied the letter to the Swain County Board of Commissioners. The letter outlined the details of the June 2 incident at the jail, which Cutler claimed led to his resignation.

“While I was subduing an inmate, Deputy Robert Clark began to punch the inmate in the ribs and head; once the inmate was restrained, I told Deputy Clark to stop three times,” Cutler wrote in his letter. “I was then berated and threatened by Deputy Clark for telling him ‘what to do while I he was fighting someone.’ This resulted in injuries to the inmate and to Deputy Clark’s hand, as he had to ice it after the encounter.”

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Smoky Mountain News requested a copy of the letter from the county but was told County Manager Kevin King was consulting with the county attorney about whether the letter was public record since it is a part of Cutler’s personnel file. 

County Clerk Cindi Woodard said she was advised not to release the letter until it was cleared with the county attorney. The letter, which was obtained by Smoky Mountain Times, stated that he was resigning because of extreme abuse and disrespect from the deputies at the sheriff’s office. 

“I cannot work, and have never worked, under such treatment of myself or others,” he wrote in his letter. “I fear for the Sheriff’s Office and Swain County’s reputation, and the liability involved, if this is the standard of a deputy in Swain County.” 

According to Culter’s letter, the incident led to injury of the inmate and to Clark’s hand. Cutler also claimed that he was berated by his superior, Capt. Tony Sutton, for arguing with Clark during the incident in front of inmates.

He said two jail videotapes would backup his story. 

Welch said her office could not comment on the case since it is an open investigation. 

Sheriff Curtis Cochran did not return a phone call by press time.

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