By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Jury finds ex-deputy not guilty of charges tied to Habersham toddler's grenade injury
Autry was accused of providing false information in acquiring warrant
Placeholder Image

A former Habersham County Sheriff’s Office deputy was found not guilty on all counts Friday by a federal jury in Gainesville in connection with a 2014 drug raid that resulted in a toddler’s injury.

Nikki Autry was accused of providing false information to a magistrate court judge for a “no-knock” warrant that led to a raid on May 28, 2014.

When a drug task force entered the Cornelia home, a flash-bang grenade exploded near 18-month-old Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh and caused severe facial burns.

The jury returned with a verdict before 5 p.m. Friday with an acquittal on all three charges. Autry was accused of violating the Fourth Amendment rights of the child, his family and the homeowner, Amanda Thonetheva.

“This was a tragic case, and a case that needed to be brought and presented to the jury. We are obviously disappointed, but we accept the jury’s decision,” U.S. Attorney John Horn in a statement.

While expressing concern for the child and his injuries, Autry and her attorneys addressed the media outside the courthouse about her vindication on all charges.

“The government should be ashamed of itself,” defense attorney Michael Trost told the media, adding that the case had no basis to be heard in the Gainesville courtroom.

Defense attorney Jeff Brickman told The Times before the trial he expected the same result returned last year by a Habersham County grand jury, which did not charge any officer involved with criminal wrongdoing.

Brickman said he believes the federal government stepped in after people “got caught up in the emotion” of Bou Bou’s injuries.

The jury took to deliberation after hearing closing arguments Friday morning. William McKinnon of the U.S. Attorney’s Office depicted Autry as an “overzealous police officer” who attempted to secure a search warrant with misleading information with “no respect for their rights.”

“She had every reason to believe no one would ask about these lies,” McKinnon said.

Trost followed McKinnon by pointing to her history in the drug task force.

“All that Nikki Autry tried to do was remove some of the poison in this community,” he said.

Trost claimed the federal government was attempting “to score some cheap points” by making an example of Autry after criticism of police militarization.

The Habersham County government previously reached a $964,000 settlement with the Phonesavanh family.

Regional events