Higgins Trial Postponed Until April

Nov. 14 - The federal jury trial for John M. Higgins, the former Rockbridge Regional Jail superintendent who faces 21 charges related to fraud, bribery and inmate abuse, has been continued a fourth time. It is now scheduled to begin April 20, 2020.

               U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon approved the trial continuation today after Higgins’ counsel filed a motion to continue the trial Wednesday, on the basis of “recent delivery of substantial and significant amount of discovery documents to counsel for the Defendant.”

               The trial was set to begin Dec. 9 after a previous continuation from a July 23 court date. Higgins and former jail head nurse Gary Hassler were indicted on inmate abuse charges Aug. 14, 2018. The original trial date for Higgins and Hassler was continued twice from Oct. 29, 2018, to July 23, 2019.

               A superseding indictment returned June 27 named Higgins in an additional two charges of mail fraud and 15 charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, for allegedly accepting prescription drugs from the jail’s pharmaceutical provider as well as things of value from an inmate’s family members in exchange for preferential treatment. Higgins was granted another continuance to begin trial Dec. 9 in light of the additional charges.

               Hassler severed his charges from Higgins and proceeded with a jury trial beginning July 24. He was found guilty on one count of the two charges alleging his falsifying medical documents related to the abuse of an inmate. Hassler was sentenced by Judge Moon to self-report to a year-long sentence in federal prison on Oct. 29.


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