Two former correctional officers with the Louisville Metropolitan Department of Corrections pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the beating of an inmate. A third officer pleaded guilty earlier this year.
According to a plea agreement filed in court last week, David Schwartz and Devan Edwards were guards at the jail in Louisville. Donna Gentry was a sergeant on duty during the assault.
The facts as admitted by Schwartz in his plea agreement say,
“On or about April 15, 2018, defendant David Schwartz, then a correctional officer working at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections in Louisville, Kentucky, assaulted pretrial detainee T.W. in the West Hold area of the jail by punching T.W. in the face while T.W. had his hands cuffed behind his back, and while T.W. was pleading with defendant Schwartz and posing no threat. Defendant Schwartz then wrote a false and misleading report, during which he intentionally omitted the fact that he had used force against T.W.
“The incident in the West Hold followed another use of force against T.W. that occurred a few minutes earlier in T. W. 's cell and involved defendant Schwartz, fellow officer Devan Edwards, and Supervisory Official B. After that initial use of force in the cell, defendant Schwartz and Officer Edwards took T.W. to the West Hold. Upon entering the West Hold, the defendant and Officer Edwards intentionally failed to activate [his] body camera, despite being required by policy to do so, because they did not want a record of what was about to occur. Both officers then assaulted T.W. while he was handcuffed and posing no threat. The officers used force against T.W. out of anger, and not for any legitimate law enforcement purpose. Defendant Schwartz knew, at the time of this incident, that his conduct was unlawful, and that an unjustified use of force could lead to discipline, termination, a civil suit, and/or criminal prosecution.
“After the incident, defendant Schwartz learned that, while in the West Hold, Officer Edwards had accidentally activated his body camera and had captured part of the assault on videotape. Defendant Schwartz discussed what happened in the West Hold with Supervisory Official B, who suggested that defendant Schwartz should omit from his official report any mention of the force used in the West Hold. Supervisory Official B advised that s/he would do the same in his/her report.
“Defendant Schwartz then wrote a false report, in which he intentionally omitted his use of force, in order to prevent anyone from learning what he had done. Thereafter, defendant Schwartz wrote a Kentucky Uniform Citation charging T.W. with felony third-degree assault, in which defendant Schwartz knowingly included false information about T. W.' s conduct.”
Sergeant Gentry in her plea agreement admitted writing and filing a false report, in which she included false statements and made material omissions about the excessive force used by Officers Schwartz and Edwards. To make sure there were no inconsistent statements in the reports, she directed Edwards to review her report and provide the same false account in his own report, changing the wording so that it would not be obvious that he had copied from her report.
The Blue Wall of Silence
We have seen this before with corrections officers and cops. There is sometimes a “blue wall of silence”. Just like inmates don’t want to become informants, guards are equally likely to claim they didn’t see anything.
Why? Guards are afraid that if they testify against another officer, should they later need help no one will come to their aid. The fear of not receiving help in a critical situation is a powerful incentive to look away and not report misconduct by fellow officers.
Schwartz Charged with Civil Rights Violations
Schwartz, Edwards and Gentry were all charged with various offenses. All took early acceptance of responsibility for their actions.
Unlike Sergeant Gentry whose actions are linked to the coverup, Schwartz was indicted on a single count of Deprivation of Rights under Color of Law. He faces 50 years when sentenced. Gentry faces 20 years.
Because they took responsibility for their action and the inmate “T.W.” was not seriously injured, both will probably see a sentence at the lower range of federal sentencing guidelines. Their careers are finished, however.
Even with his cooperation, Schwartz is looking at a probable sentence of 30 months to 37 months. Sgt Gentry is looking at a probable sentence of 12 to 18 months. Typically, first time offenders wouldn’t get any prison for punching someone in the face but the sentencing guidelines impose higher penalties when the assault takes place in the civil rights context and when the victim was restrained.
Similarly, if Donna Gentry wasn’t a supervisor, she would likely get probation.
On Halloween both officers pleaded guilty. They will be sentenced next year.
In announcing the convictions, the Department of Justice released a statement saying,
“Correctional officers are sworn to uphold and defend the laws of our nation and to ensure the safety of the inmates under their control. These defendants knowingly violated the constitutional rights of an inmate and then lied to cover it up, thereby abusing the powers that the public entrusted to them. The Department of Justice will continue to hold correctional officers accountable for their actions.”
Both the officers were on new and still in probation at the time of their arrest. They and the sergeant were terminated.
Kentucky has a Public Corruption Civil Rights Task Force made up of FBI and local agencies including the Louisville Metropolitan Police. We are happy to see that LMPD officers were able to investigate their own and take appropriate actions.
We worry that this incident might not ever have been prosecuted if the partial video had not been leaked. How many assaults go unproven every day because there is no proof?
Inmates have the right not to be abused. If you or a loved one has suffered mistreatment in jail or prison, you have legal options and may be entitled to compensation. Contact us at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.
*Note – Our practice is limited to wrongful death cases and serious bodily injuries. We also invite you to visit our prison inmate abuse information page to learn more about what we do.