FBI Investigating Physical Abuse of 14-Year-Old Handcuffed Boy by Calhoun County SheriffApril 13, 2011

A young black teen has asserted that he was physically assaulted by Sheriff Larry Amerson after being handcuffed and shackled while visiting the Calhoun County, Alabama, jail as part of a crime prevention program.

Video footage provided to the Anniston Star shows Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson shoving and holding by the throat a 14-year-old boy while he is handcuffed behind his back and shackled at his ankles. The FBI has launched a preliminary investigation into whether the sheriff violated the boy’s civil rights.

The video has no sound and apparently was taken from a surveillance camera in a room at the Calhoun County Jail. Provided to the Anniston Star by an anonymous source, the two-and-a-half-minute-long video shows an African-American boy dressed in an orange-and-white jail jumpsuit sitting on a bench with his hands shackled behind his back and his ankles shackled with a chain.

Sheriff Amerson sits on the bench to the boy’s left with his arm around the child's shoulders. After three men, including Jail Administrator Eric Starr, leave the room, the sheriff appears to talk to the boy for a moment. Amerson then grabs the child by his left shoulder, gets up off the bench, leans over him, and forces his head back into the wall by holding his chin or neck for several seconds.

Amerson sits back down, and after about a minute, he uses both hands to grab the boy's shirt collar and shove him backward against the wall. Amerson would not tell reporters why the boy was dressed as a jail inmate, shackled, and handcuffed. He did say that any juvenile at the jail and dressed as an inmate is part of a "scared straight" program through which troubled children provide menial labor for the jail, such as taking out the trash.

If a student misbehaves while at the jail, Amerson told the Anniston Star, he and other corrections officers have talks with them. Amerson described the incident caught on video as "a talk" he had with the child.

The FBI is investigating the incident as a possible civil rights violation, and the boy's mother, Stacy Brown, has filed a federal lawsuit against the sheriff for assaulting her 14-year-old son, identified as J.B.

Depending on what state and federal investigations reveal, state or United States attorney general’s offices could decide to press criminal charges of police misconduct or brutality against Sheriff Amerson.