American Justice Notebook

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Former Kentucky Prison Supervisor Convicted of Covering Up Brutal Assaults on Inmates


After a six-day trial, a federal jury convicted former Bureau of Prisons Lieutenant Kevin Pearce, 38, of covering up a brutal beating of inmates, officials stated.

 two counts of obstruction for writing false reports about the assaults of two federal inmates by corrections officers under Pearce’s command, officials stated.

The defendant is a former supervisor at U.S. Penitentiary Big Sandy in Inez, Kentucky.

Two former officers, Samuel Patrick, and Clinton Pauley, previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the two assaults and testified for the government at trial, officials stated.

The evidence at trial established that the defendant was the supervising lieutenant responding to an incident at Big Sandy in which his co-defendants, former officers Patrick and Pauley, assaulted an inmate by pepper-spraying him in the face and kicking him in the head.

Witnesses, including those who assaulted the inmates, testified that the inmate was not a threat and was compliant, and was assaulted for walking too slowly to his cell, rather than for any legitimate penological purpose.

The defendant attempted to cover up the assault by writing a false report that untruthfully described the inmate as violent and omitted that the inmate had been kicked in the head while he was prone and unresisting. 

The evidence further established that, one month later, the defendant again covered up an unrelated assault also initiated by officers Patrick and Pauley.

The victim of that assault was taken to the defendant’s office in order to request protection from other inmates.

When the victim, who is white, revealed that he used to affiliate with Black gangs, the defendant’s fellow officers repeatedly struck him in the head and body while one of the officers referred to him as a “race traitor.”

The defendant wrote a false report about the assault in which he claimed that the inmate agreed to go to his housing unit “without incident,” and, as the cover-up expanded, he supervised efforts to discredit the inmate by recruiting another officer who was not present to write a report which falsely corroborated the agreed-upon cover story.

“This defendant abused the trust given to him as a federal correctional officer and supervisor when he attempted to cover up the assaults of two inmates in his custody,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

 U.S. Attorney Carlton S. Shier IV for the Eastern District of Kentucky said: “Instead of enforcing the law and protecting those in his care, he chose to cover up disgraceful abuses and to discredit those who faithfully discharge their public service. His conviction is the next step in the process of restoring the public’s trust.”

“Pearce lied in an attempt to cover up an egregious assault of an inmate by his fellow officers,” said Special Agent in Charge William J. Hannah of the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (DOJ-OIG) Chicago Field Office.

The maximum penalties for false report offenses are 20 years of imprisonment. The sentencing is scheduled for July 5. 

DOJ-OIG and the FBI investigated the case. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Dembo for the Eastern District of Kentucky and Trial Attorney Thomas Johnson of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section are prosecuting the case.