Former correctional officer pleads guilty to punching handcuffed man on video

“Correctional officers who abuse their power and harm inmates violate our civil rights laws.”

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Recorded on body cam video, punching a compliant and handcuffed inmate in the face, a former correctional officer at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections pleaded guilty Thursday to assaulting the defenseless inmate along with another officer. The former correctional officer also admitted to filing a false incident report that omitted the assault and exaggerated facts.

In April 2018, Kentucky correctional officers Devan Edwards and David Schwartz removed inmate Terry Whitehead from his cell, handcuffed him, and took him to a holding cell outside the view of surveillance cameras. In the holding cell, while Whitehead was seated, handcuffed, and not resisting, Schwartz grabbed him by the neck with his right hand and began to strangle him.

According to body cam footage, Edwards punched the handcuffed inmate repeatedly in the head until a third officer intervened. After the incident, at his supervisor’s direction, Edwards wrote and filed a use-of-force report that exaggerated the inmate’s initial non-compliance and omitted any mention of the beating.

“Correctional officers who abuse their power and harm inmates violate our civil rights laws,” stated Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “This type of abuse towards inmates will not be tolerated by the Department of Justice.”

“Today’s guilty plea should send a clear message that the FBI and the Department of Justice will not tolerate the abuse of power or victimization of citizens by anyone in law enforcement,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert Brown Jr. on Thursday. “The Kentucky Public Corruption and Civil Rights Task Force was set up to insure the integrity of our criminal justice system for all citizens. The Task Force will vigorously investigate these kinds of cases, and those who violate the public’s trust will be held accountable.”

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Edwards faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is scheduled to appear in court for his sentencing in August.

Schwartz has pleaded not guilty to a charge of deprivation of rights under color of law. He was also indicted on charges of filing a false report.

Their supervisor, Donna Gentry, has been charged with obstruction of justice for filing a false report against Whitehead.

Whitehead has filed a lawsuit against Edwards, Gentry, and Schwartz in federal court, alleging excessive force, assault, and battery.

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