Two Former Arkansas Juvenile Detention Officers Plead Guilty to Conspiracy to Assault on Juvenile Detainees
LITTLE ROCK—Patrick C. Harris, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Diane Upchurch, Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced today that two former White River Juvenile Detention Center supervisors, Captain Peggy Kendrick, 43, and Lieutenant Dennis Fuller, 40, pleaded guilty today in federal court before U.S. District Judge James M. Moody Jr. to conspiring to assault juvenile inmates. Kendrick also pleaded guilty to assaulting a sixteen-year-old girl using pepper spray and to obstructing justice by falsifying an incident report about that assault. The White River Juvenile Detention Center is located in Batesville, Arkansas.
According to the guilty pleas to the felony Information, Kendrick, Fuller, and other unnamed former officers assaulted and physically punished juvenile detainees, who posed no threat, by spraying them in the face with pepper spray. In some instances, they then shut the compliant juveniles in their cells after pepper spraying them to “let them cook,” rather than immediately decontaminating them. Kendrick also encouraged the juvenile detention officers, who unjustifiably assaulted juveniles, to falsify their incident reports to cover up the assaults.
Acting U.S. Attorney Patrick C. Harris stated, “When correction officers violate laws and the Constitution, they will be prosecuted. There is no exception. I understand the difficult job they have, but that is not an excuse for assaulting a juvenile and obstructing an investigation. In fact, there is no excuse for that. That is a crime and we will prosecute the criminals.”
“Corrections officers who use excessive force against inmates in their custody violate the Constitution,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to vigorously investigating and prosecuting officers who break the public trust in this way.”
“We at the FBI are appalled at what occurred to these minors,” said Special Agent in Charge Diane Upchurch with the Little Rock FBI Field Office. “Along with our partners at the Justice Department, we are steadfast in our commitment to investigate and punish those responsible for these incomprehensible actions.”
The maximum potential penalty for a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241 (Conspiracy Against Rights) is up to ten years imprisonment, up to three years of supervised release, and up to a $250,000 fine. The maximum potential penalty for a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242 (Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law) is up to ten years imprisonment, up to three years of supervised release, and up to a $250,000 fine. The maximum potential penalty for a violation of 18 U.S.C. 1519 (Falsification of Records in Federal Investigations) is up to twenty years imprisonment, up to three years of supervised release, and up to a $250,000 fine. Accordingly, Kendrick faces a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and Fuller faces a statutory maximum sentence of ten years in prison.
The court will set a sentencing hearing date after Presentence Investigation Reports are completed.
This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Little Rock Field Division and the investigation is ongoing. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Peters of the Eastern District of Arkansas and Trial Attorney Samantha Trepel of the Civil Rights Division.