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Press Release

Former Cumberland County Solid Waste Director Convicted Of Civil Rights Offenses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Tennessee

NASHVILLE – The former Cumberland County, Tennessee Solid Waste Director was convicted yesterday of nine counts of civil rights violations, including kidnapping and sexually assaulting women that he supervised.  Michael Harvel, 61, of Crossville, Tennessee, was convicted by  a federal jury after an eight-day trial, which included testimony from 13 women who testified about Harvel’s abuse.  The jury acquitted Harvel of one misdemeanor count.

Harvel was initially indicted in July 2021 for civil rights violations, and a superseding indictment returned in November 2021 charged him with additional civil rights violations which occurred between 2014 and 2018.    

“The defendant raped and assaulted women who were in extremely vulnerable positions,” said U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin.  “Those in positions of authority cannot abuse their positions with impunity, and we look forward to seeking a prison sentence for Mr. Harvel that reflects the seriousness of this offense.  I commend the victims, investigators, and the prosecution team for holding Mr. Harvel accountable for his crimes and for obtaining justice in this matter.”

Evidence introduced at trial established that Harvel was the Director of Solid Waste for Cumberland County, with an office located in the Cumberland County Recycling Center.  Harvel’s official duties included supervising workers at the recycling center and at other satellite locations and county landfills, where he supervised dozens of women who served their court-ordered community service time or worked as paid employees.  Many of these were vulnerable women who were recovering drug addicts, convicted felons, and poor, single moms. What each of the victims had in common was that Harvel was their boss, while they were working for a low wage or to work off court fees, in a dirty recycling center.

Harvel was found guilty of four counts that charged him with kidnapping and sexually assaulting women whom he supervised.  He was also convicted on three counts that charged him with committing aggravated sexual abuse, including one for forcibly raping a woman in an office at a county facility.  Finally, Harvel was found guilty on charges for incidents in which he fondled the breasts and genitals of women against their will.

“The defendant abused his power as a public official in order to sexually assault women under his supervision at a county facility,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Civil Rights Division. “This guilty verdict was made possible by the thirteen brave women who testified about the defendant’s abuse, and by the tireless work of the federal investigators and prosecutors who pursued justice in this matter. The Justice Department will continue working hard to protect women from exploitation by government officials who wield authority over them.”

"The FBI Memphis Field Office is proud of the role that it played in bringing this man to justice and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to remove those whose criminal acts result in targeting individuals in extremely vulnerable positions," said Special Agent in Charge Douglas Korneski of the FBI Memphis Field Office. “The FBI will always work to bring to justice those who violate the civil rights of others.”

Harvel faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.  A sentencing date has not yet been set by the court.

This case was investigated by the FBI.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Brooke Schiferle of the Middle District of Tennessee and Trial Attorneys Michael J. Songer and Laura-Kate Bernstein of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case. 

In 2021, in a separate civil action, the Department of Justice settled a sexual harassment lawsuit against Cumberland County for $1.1 million.  The lawsuit alleged, among other things, that Cumberland County failed to take adequate precautions to prevent Harvel, as the director of the county’s Solid Waste Department, from sexually harassing women he supervised. According to the complaint, Harvel regularly subjected the women to unwanted sexual contact, including kissing and groping, and to unwelcome sexual advances.

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Contact

Contact:

David Boling

Public Affairs Officer

615-736-5956

david.boling2@usdoj.gov

Updated December 16, 2022

Topics
Civil Rights