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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Tennessee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, May 3, 2021

Former Tennessee Correctional Officer Sentenced Following Staff Assault of Inmate

Memphis, TN – A former Tennessee correctional officer was sentenced Friday to two years in prison and two years of supervised release for his involvement in a staff assault of an inmate.

Jonathan York, a former Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) Officer at the Northwest County Correctional Complex in Tiptonville, Tennessee, was sentenced April 30. During the federal investigation, six former TDOC officers ultimately pleaded guilty to federal offenses arising out of the assault of the inmate and the cover up that followed. York is the second of the six to be sentenced.

"The defendant was held accountable for abusing his power and for violating the public’s trust in him as a correctional officer," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department is committed to vigorously prosecuting all who commit civil rights violations."

"The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to the prosecution of criminal civil rights violations committed by corrections officers, who have a responsibility to treat those in their custody in a manner consistent with the U.S. Constitution and federal civil rights statute," said Acting U.S. Attorney Joseph C. Murphy Jr., for the Western District of Tennessee. "This case is an example of that commitment."

"This sentencing should be a reminder that wearing a badge does not make one above the law," said Acting Special Agent in Charge Matthew Foster of the FBI Memphis Field Office. "Law enforcement officers or any other government employees who abuse their authority and use unlawful force will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted. The FBI will always work to bring to justice those who violate the civil rights of others."

On June 9, 2020, York pleaded guilty to using unlawful force while acting under color of law and conspiring to cover up the incident. With his guilty plea, York admitted that, on Feb. 1, 2019, he and other correctional officers entered the cell of R.T., an inmate in the mental health unit. Inside the cell, York asked a fellow officer to cover the surveillance camera and he then punched R.T. Although R.T. did not pose a threat to the officers, York punched R.T. approximately 30 times. York then stood by and watched as two other correctional officers punched R.T. After the assault of R.T., York spoke with other correctional officers and they conspired to tell a false cover story about what happened to R.T.

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

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Contact: 
Cherri Green Reentry and Community Outreach Coordinator Cherri.green@usdoj.gov (901) 544-4231
Updated May 3, 2021