18-year-old being held at Richland adult detention center denied transfer back to DJJ (copy)

Youths incarcerated at the Department of Juvenile Justice Broad River Road facility in Columbia take time out after school to play basketball outside some of the older dormitories. File/Staff

A state Department of Juvenile Justice officer accused of hog-tying two juvenile inmates is behind bars.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for South Carolina announced a three-count indictment Thursday against Nicole Jenice Samples, 35, of Columbia.

Samples is charged with two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, and one count of obstruction of justice, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

According to the indictment, Samples used excessive force as punishment against two juveniles housed at the Department of Juvenile Justice on Jan. 1.

"It is alleged that in response to juveniles making noise, Samples, a lieutenant at DJJ, ordered two of her subordinate correctional officers to apply mechanical restraints to two juveniles, directing that the leg restraints be connected to the hand restraints, a practice known as 'hog-tying,'" according to a media release.

Department policy limits use of restraints and specifically forbids hog-tying, the office said.

"Samples oversaw the application of the hog-tie restraints as punishment, leaving the juveniles face down on their stomachs for over two hours," the announcement said.

The alleged incident was reported Jan. 12, said Patrick Montgomery, a Department of Juvenile Justice spokesman. After an internal review, the case was turned over to the 5th Circuit Solicitor's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Samples was suspended without pay as soon as the allegations were brought, Montgomery said. She was fired in early February.

In a statement, the department's acting director Freddie Pough condemned Samples' actions.

"We at DJJ make full review of allegations of abuse and-or mistreatment of all juveniles in our care, and we will not tolerate mistreatment by any staff or other residents," his statement said.

"When this allegation was raised, after an initial review, we notified (the State Law Enforcement Division), the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in order that there was a full investigation. No officer is above the law," his statement said.

If convicted, Sample faces up to 10 years in prison on each of the deprivation of rights under color of law charges, and 20 years in prison on the obstruction charge, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Samples also faces a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

It is not known if Samples has an attorney. No representative was listed in court documents Thursday.

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.