WASHINGTON –— The Justice Department today announced that former Wilson County, Tenn. corrections officers Gary Hale, John McKinney, and William Westmoreland were sentenced on charges relating to violations of the civil rights of inmates at the Wilson County Jail in Lebanon, Tenn. Hale was sentenced to nine years imprisonment and two years supervised release; Westmoreland was sentenced to three years probation, six months of which is home detention; and McKinney was sentenced to two years probation
“These defendants violated the public’s trust and broke faith with the proud history of integrity and professionalism in law enforcement,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “As today’s sentencing demonstrates, the Justice Department will vigorously prosecute and hold accountable anyone who violates a position of trust by mistreating those entrusted to their custody.”
Hale, McKinney and Westmoreland all pleaded guilty to federal crimes relating to their duties as corrections officers on the night shift of the Wilson County Jail (“Jail”) during 2001-03. Hale pleaded guilty on Dec. 28, 2005, to participating in a conspiracy to violate the civil rights of inmates at the Jail by assaulting and depriving them of medical care during 2001-2003, including the events that resulted in the death of detainee Walter Kuntz in January 2003. McKinney pleaded guilty on April 9, 2004, to the felony charge of misprision of a felony for failing to report a September 2002 assault by other guards at the Jail, and Westmoreland pleaded guilty on Nov. 13, 2003, to participating in July 2001 assault with other guards on a Jail inmate.
Three other former Wilson County corrections officers – Travis Bradley, Brian Ferrell, and Christopher McCathern – have been sentenced after pleading guilty to felony charges relating to violations of the civil rights of inmates at the Wilson County Jail. In addition, two former Wilson County corrections officers – Tommy Shane Conatser and Patrick Marlowe – were convicted at trial in January 2006 for their roles. Marlowe also was convicted of six additional civil rights violations for assaulting or denying inmates medical care, including the assaults and denial of medical care that resulted in the death of Walter Kuntz. Conatser was sentenced on May 12, 2006, to 70 months imprisonment and two-years of supervised release. Marlowe is scheduled to be sentenced on July 6, 2006.
In announcing the sentencing, Assistant Attorney General Kim commended Middle District of Tennessee U.S. Attorney Jim Vines and his office, the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division; My Harrison, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; and the District Attorney General’s Office for the Fifteenth Judicial District, for their involvement in this investigation and prosecution of alleged civil rights violations at the Wilson County Jail.
The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as those laws that prohibit the willful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials. In fact, since FY 2001, the Division has convicted 30 percent more defendants in official misconduct prosecutions than in the preceding five fiscal years.