Crime & Courts

Former SC DJJ officer ‘hog-tied’ juveniles as punishment, federal investigators say

A former officer at the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice faces up to 40 years in jail after being accused of “hog-tying” two juveniles as punishment for making noise.

Nicole Jenice Samples, a former DJJ lieutenant, was indicted by a federal grand jury on two charges of deprivation of rights under color of law and a charge of obstruction of justice, U.S. Attorney Beth Drake announced Thursday.

The indictment alleges that on Jan. 1, 2017, Samples ordered the use of excessive force as punishment for two juveniles being held at DJJ in response to them making noise.

Samples is accused of ordering subordinate correctional officers to apply mechanical restraints to two juveniles, connecting the leg restraints to the hand restraints, which is known as “hog-tying.” DJJ policy forbids that kind of restraint on any juveniles, Drake said in a news release.

The two juveniles were left face down on their stomachs, in their restraints, for more than two hours, Drake said.

Acting DJJ director Freddie Pough said in a statement his agency “will not tolerate mistreatment by any staff or other residents.”

“When this allegation was raised, after an initial review, we notified SLED, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in order that there was a full investigation,” Pough said. “No officer is above the law. I would like to thank our state and federal counterparts for their support and assistance with this investigation.”

The state’s juvenile justice agency has been scrutinized and criticized for having poorly trained correctional officers and ineffective police and not doing enough to prevent rape and violence in its facilities.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster called the allegations “appalling” and said the charges against Samples show that “any effort to abuse a position of authority that puts the safety and rights of others in jeopardy will not be tolerated and will be met with swift and just action.”

Samples was an assistant unit manager who was hired Nov. 3, 2014, according to DJJ Director of Public Affairs Patrick Montgomery. She was suspended without pay Jan. 13 and fired Feb. 2.

Staff writer Jamie Self contributed.