Former Kentucky Deputy Jailer Sentenced for Repeatedly Tasing Suicidal Inmate to Punish Him for Cursing
James Eakes, a former deputy jailer with the Fulton County Detention Center in Hickman, Kentucky, was sentenced today to 48 months in prison and one year of supervised release for willfully depriving a Kentucky citizen of his constitutional rights under color of law.
On April 29, 2019, a federal jury convicted Eakes, 54, of willfully depriving an inmate of the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by assaulting him with a dangerous weapon. According to evidence and testimony, Eakes repeatedly tased inmate L.B. after L.B. cursed at him.
“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting victims from cruel and unusual punishment,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “As demonstrated by this sentencing the Civil Rights Division will relentlessly pursue justice on behalf of those whose rights were abused.”
“Each of us in law enforcement take an oath to uphold the rights of all; we don’t get to pick and choose,” said U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman for the Western District of Kentucky. “Victims will be protected, and those found to be violating the law will be prosecuted regardless of their position or what office they hold.”
“The FBI will not tolerate correctional officers who violate a person’s civil rights,” said FBI Louisville Special Agent in Charge James Robert Brown Jr. “Former deputy jailer, Eakes, took an oath to protect the inmates under his control. Not only did he abuse his position of authority, but he also betrayed the public’s trust. As civil rights and color of law violations are a top priority of the FBI, we will continue to aggressively pursue law enforcement officials who abuse their power.”
The jury heard evidence that Eakes was first called to L.B.’s cell because L.B. told guards he was suicidal. As required by the jail’s procedures, Eakes and two other female deputy jailers then removed all of L.B.’s possessions from his cell and made L.B. strip naked. Eakes left the cell and closed the door, which automatically locked, leaving L.B. in his cell with only an anti-suicide garment.
The evidence and testimony showed that, after he was locked in his cell, L.B. cursed at Eakes from behind the cell door. Eakes then ordered that the door be unlocked, removed his Taser from his holster, opened the door, and immediately shot L.B. with his Taser. Eakes then entered L.B.’s cell, and, while activating the Taser, repeatedly yelled at L.B. not to curse at him again. Despite the fact that L.B. took no aggressive action towards Eakes and remained slumped against the cell wall, Eakes tased L.B. two additional times.
The FBI Louisville Field Office, Hopkinsville Resident Agency conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Madison Sewell of the Western District of Kentucky and Trial Attorney Zachary Dembo of the Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.