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Former Rockbridge County Regional Jail superintendent, head nurse indicted on federal charges

Officials accused of denying detainees medical care

LEXINGTON, Va. – Two former officials at a Southwest Virginia jail now face federal charges related to civil rights violations, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. 

The two men were indicted in front of a federal grand jury on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Roanoke. 

The previous superintendent of the jail, 61-year-old John Higgins, is charged with four counts of deprivation of rights under color of law for refusing a detainee of medical care.

The indictment alleges that Higgins failed to protect the right of Rockbridge County Regional Jail inmates from physical abuse, resulting in inmate injuries. 

Gary Hassler, 58, the former head nurse of the jail, is charged with two counts of falsifying documents in order to obstruct a federal investigation. 

According to the indictment, Hassler is accused of fabricating an incident report on March 5, 2017 by falsely reporting an inmate refused medical care.

The indictment also claims that Hassler forged a medical log for an inmate by falsely claiming that in late February 2017, the inmate refused his medication. 

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and Virginia State Police.

About the Author:

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a digital content producer in July 2018.