Former SBPD officer pleads guilty to striking handcuffed inmate

More than five years ago, a South Bend Police officer hit a handcuffed inmate at the jail.

Only today did former officer Theodore Robert face criminal consequences for his actions.

The crime in question carries a maximum punishment of ten years behind bars but a sentence of pure probation is now possible now that Robert’s plea agreement has been accepted in federal court in South Bend.

The May 30th, 2010 incident was caught by jail surveillance cameras that show Robert at the top of the screen exchanging words with a handcuffed inmate at the bottom of the screen.

Robert then charges and attacks with inmate with force he now admits was “not reasonable.”

The plea agreement states that Robert pushed the inmate forcefully with an arm pressed to the inmates head and throat, and that Robert later punched the inmate in the face causing a cut that required multiple stitches.

Today in court, Robert stuck closely to a script--reading a statement saying he acted “under the color of law” and deprived the inmate’s civil rights.

During a plea hearing in December, Robert seemed more interested in deflecting responsibility than he did in accepting it. For instance, he told the judge that he was forced to violate department policy when was told to bring the inmate to jail, even though the two had earlier scuffled at a home on S. Taylor Street.

Back in December, when asked if he hit a handcuffed inmate, Robert told the court he was always trained that restrained suspects could still be dangerous.

Today’s plea agreement does not address monetary restitution to the inmate because the City of South Bend has already settled a civil lawsuit on the matter with a payment of $55,000.

The plea agreement specifies that both the prosecution and defense agree that a sentence of probation “may be reasonable” although that recommendation is not binding on the sentencing judge.

Sentencing has been scheduled for May 19th.

Nearly five years passed from the time of the incident to the time the criminal charges were filed by a prosecutor based in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division.