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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 7, 2021

Former Tennessee Correctional Officer Sentenced for Covering Up Staff Assault of an Inmate

A former Tennessee Correctional Officer was sentenced today to a year and a day in prison and two years supervised release for conspiring to cover up the beating of an inmate and for persuading other officers to provide false information to investigators.

On May 7, Tommy Morris, a former Corporal with the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) at the Northwest County Correctional Complex in Tiptonville, Tennessee, pleaded guilty to federal offenses arising out of the assault of R.T., an inmate in the mental health unit at the facility. Morris is the third officer to be sentenced.

“The defendant, as a supervisory correctional officer, watched other officers assault a vulnerable inmate and then he guided these officers in their efforts to cover up their criminal conduct,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable those who commit civil rights violations and those who conspire with their fellow officers to obstruct the ensuing criminal investigation.”

“The civil rights statutes are there to protect the Constitutional rights and freedoms of everyone,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Joseph C. Murphy Jr. for the Western District of Tennessee. “Our office will prosecute those who violate these laws, regardless of the victim’s status and those who attempt to cover up these crimes.”

“This sentence should send a clear message that the FBI makes it a priority to bring to justice any law enforcement officer who violates the civil rights of those in his care and custody,” said Special Agent in Charge Douglas M. Korneski of the FBI Memphis Field Office. “It undermines the respect and reputation of all law enforcement officers when a correctional officer violates the civil rights of an inmate whose safety he is charged with.”

On Nov. 24, 2020, Morris pleaded guilty to conspiring to cover up the beating of R.T. and to knowingly encouraging correctional officers to provide investigators with false and misleading information. 

This case was investigated by the Memphis Division of the FBI with the support of the TDOC, and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Rebekah J. Bailey of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Pritchard of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee.

Component(s): 
Press Release Number: 
21-428
Updated May 11, 2021