WASHINGTON—Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Wan J. Kim, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Jim Vines, and Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation My Harrison, today announced that former Wilson County, Tenn. corrections officer Tommy Shane Conatser was sentenced on charges relating to violations of the civil rights of inmates at the Wilson County Jail in Lebanon, Tenn. Conatser was sentenced to 70 months imprisonment, and two years supervised release.
“The Justice Department is committed to vigorously prosecuting any law enforcement officer who abuses a position of trust to mistreat those in custody,” said Assistant Attorney General Kim. “Such unlawful behavior undermines the tireless efforts of the vast majority of law enforcement officers throughout our nation who do a tough job with professionalism and courage.”
Conatser was a corrections officer on the night shift of the Wilson County jail from 2000 to mid-2002. He was convicted at trial of conspiring with fellow former officer Patrick Marlowe and other defendants to violate the rights of inmates at the jail under 18 U.S.C. § 241. Conatser was present while Marlowe and other officers assaulted inmates causing serious injuries, including the breaking of one inmate's jaw and the breaking of another inmate's cheek bones. Conatser then participated in covering up these assaults through filing false incident reports.
In addition to Conatser and Marlowe, six other former Wilson County corrections officers have pleaded guilty to felony charges relating to violations of the civil rights of inmates at the Wilson County Jail. Three of these eight defendants have been sentenced to date. Christopher McCathern was sentenced to a 41-month term of imprisonment and two years of supervised release. Travis Bradley was sentenced to two-years probation. Robert Brian Ferrell also was sentenced to a one-year term of imprisonment and two years of supervised release. The remaining defendants are scheduled to be sentenced as follows: William Westmoreland, John McKinney, and Gary Hale on June 16, 2006; and Marlowe on July 6, 2006.
In announcing the sentencing, Assistant Attorney General Kim commended the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee, the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, the FBI, 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.