ANNISTON, AL (WBRC) - Two different news conferences today were held at the same place--the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office, in Anniston--and addressed the same controversy: an incident caught on video in which the sheriff himself is seen getting rough with a teen, who was handcuffed and shackled.
The first of those news conferences was held in the parking lot in the morning, as members of the civil rights group Operation Human Rights, Inc. blasted the actions of Sheriff Larry Amerson, called for his resignation and demanded that he be prosecuted.
The video, first released last Thursday on the Anniston Star's website, shows Amerson sitting on a bench next to a person who appears to be dressed in an inmate's uniform, with his hands bound behind his back. Amerson has not denied that he's the man in the video or that the person in the inmate outfit is a juvenile.
At :54 into the two minute, 34 second video, Amerson is seen jumping to his feet, grabbing the young man from the front and holding him in place. At the Operation Human Rights news conference Monday, one protest sign re-created that moment.
Later in the video, Amerson gets physical again, this time grabbing the juvenile in a headlock. Amerson has stated there's a program that allows suspended students to spend the day in the county jail experiencing life as an inmate.
OHR representative Abdul Khalil'llah told the news conference the sheriff "should resign to protect the very integrity of the Office he holds...the Sheriff should be arrested, and charged with this violent assault just like any other citizen committing a similar act." Both of those lines drew applause. Khalil'llah also took exception to what Amerson told FOX6 News last week about times when it would be acceptable to use force on a handcuffed inmate--if the person is kicking, headbutting or spitting--saying none of that appears in the video.
Amerson held his own news conference four hours later, reading a prepared statement but not taking questions.
Amerson re-iterated what he announced on Facebook over the weekend, that the FBI is looking into the case at his request.
"I believe that an independent investigation is the most appropriate way to address any allegations of wrong-doing. I am pleased that they agreed to conduct a preliminary review," said Amerson.
Amerson also stated he'd cooperate with the FBI review "no matter what direction it may take or the outcome." He also criticized the Star for making the video available in the first place, saying it threatened the anonymity of the juvenile and possible broke state law involving sealed juvenile records. He urged all of the media to remain fair, and said he cannot honor a number of media requests for a longer segment of that video because of the juvenile laws.