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Three Grant County, Kentucky, Detention Center Officials Indicted for Civil Rights Violation

WASHINGTON – Grace C. Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, together with James A. Zerhusen, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, and Tracy Reinhold, Special Agent in Charge of the Louisville Division of the FBI, announced today the indictment of three former officials at the Grant County Detention Center in Williamstown, Ky.

The indictment charges three former deputy jailers with conspiring to violate the civil rights of a young man who was in their custody at the jail, and with obstructing justice in connection with the investigation of the civil rights violations.

Defendants Clinton Shawn Sydnor, Wesley Lanham, and Shawn Freeman have been charged with conspiracy against rights; deprivation of rights under color of law; and destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations. Sydnor has been charged with an additional count of destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations, as well as one count of witness tampering.

According to the indictment, on Feb. 14, 2003, defendants Sydnor, Lanham, and Freeman, along with other deputies not named in the indictment, while on official duty, taunted an 18-year-old high school student who had been brought to the detention center on a speeding charge. The deputies teased the teenager about his physical appearance and told him that he would make a good “girlfriend” for the other inmates. The indictment alleges that the defendants then solicited a group of convicted felons housed in a general population cell to sexually assault the teenager.

Additionally, the indictment alleges that defendants Sydnor, Lanham, and Freeman wrote false reports to conceal their actions, and that defendant Sydnor falsified a daily log and attempted to intimidate a witness into making false statements.

If convicted, defendants Sydnor, Lanham, and Freeman face maximum sentences of life imprisonment and fines of $250,000.

An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Kristy L. Parker and Forrest Christian of the Criminal Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky.