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Friday, April 28, 2023

Tennessee Corrections Officer Convicted of Obstructing Investigation Into Allegations of Sexual Misconduct with an Inmate

A Tennessee man was found guilty yesterday of obstructing an investigation into allegations that he sexually abused an inmate in his custody.

James Stewart Justice, 32, of Columbia, a corrections officer with the Maury County Jail, was convicted of one count of falsification of records. According to evidence introduced at trial, the defendant, formerly known as James Stewart Thomas, wrote an official report for the jail in response to allegations that he had violated the Prison Rape Elimination Act. In his report, the defendant 1) falsely claimed that he had reported to two Maury County Jail supervisors that an inmate had made sexual advances toward him while the inmate was in his custody at a hospital; 2) falsely claimed that those two Maury County Jail supervisors both advised him not to write a report about those alleged sexual advances by the inmate; and 3) omitted that he had a sexual relationship with the inmate after the inmate’s release from the custody of the Maury County Jail.

“The defendant pledged to protect and serve but instead he abused his authority as a corrections officer to try to cover up sexual misconduct at the county jail,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This verdict sends a clear message that the Justice Department will hold accountable any official who obstructs a federal civil rights investigation.”

“Today’s verdict ensures that James Justice will be held accountable for his actions. As importantly, it ensures that he will no longer be entrusted to serve as a law enforcement officer,” said U.S Attorney Henry C. Leventis for the Middle District of Tennessee. “I commend our trial team and partners at the FBI for an excellent job of investigating and presenting this case to the jury.”

“When a correctional officer abuses his authority, it undermines the respect and reputation of all law enforcement officers," said Special Agent in Charge Douglas DePodesta of the FBI Memphis Field Office. "The FBI will vigorously investigate and bring to justice any official who violates the constitution and the trust of the people."

Justice faces maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Sentencing has been scheduled for Sept. 18.

The FBI investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Klopf for the Middle District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Kyle Boynton of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section are prosecuting the case.

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 
Updated April 28, 2023