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Press Release

Former Texas Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Sentenced for Using Unlawful Force on an Inmate

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A former Van Zandt County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office jail sergeant was sentenced today to 42 months in prison for violating a jail detainee’s civil rights by using unlawful force against him. 

According to court documents, David Yager, 30, previously pleaded guilty and admitted that on or about Feb. 28, 2021, while he was serving in his official capacity, he repeatedly punched detainee M.H. in the chest with a taser with the trigger held down, even though M.H. did not pose a threat to anyone. Yager admitted that the detainee was confined to a restraint chair at the time Yager used unlawful force against him. Yager also admitted that his acts caused bodily injury to the detainee, and that he used force on the detainee despite knowing that there was no legitimate, law enforcement need to use force.

“This defendant abused his authority as a jail sergeant to assault and injure a fully restrained detainee,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable detention officers and others who use unlawful force against detainees.”

“As members of law enforcement, we take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and uphold our nation’s laws,” said U.S. Attorney Damien M. Diggs for the Eastern District of Texas. “A crime like this betrays that sacred duty and the badge with which the defendant was entrusted. When officers violate the civil rights of citizens in the Eastern District of Texas through unreasonable and unjustified violence, they will be prosecuted and held accountable.”

“Law enforcement is bound by an oath to serve all citizens with equal compassion, professionalism, dignity and respect. The defendant failed this oath by using unlawful force against someone entrusted to his custody,” said Special Agent in Charge B. Chad Yarbrough of the FBI Dallas Field Office. “When law enforcement fails to fulfill its duty to protect and serve its citizens, it erodes the trust that citizens have in us. The FBI is committed to working with our partners to hold accountable any official that abuses their authority because no one is above or beyond the law.”

The FBI Dallas Field Office investigated the case. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracey Batson for the Eastern District of Texas and Special Litigation Counsel Kathryn E. Gilbert and Trial Attorney Matthew Tannenbaum of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Division prosecuted the case.

Updated June 7, 2023

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 23-638