Four former corrections officers at the Jackson County Detention Center in Kansas City, Missouri, have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment for their roles in violating the constitutional rights of an inmate by beating the inmate without any legal justification.
Today, U.S. District Court Judge Gary A. Fenner sentenced former corrections officer Travis Hewitt to 45 months imprisonment and former corrections officer Jen-I Pulos to 30 months imprisonment. On June 29, 2020, Judge Fenner sentenced former corrections officer Terrance Dooley to 36 months imprisonment and former corrections officer Dakota Pearce to 24 months imprisonment.
On Oct. 4, 2019, a federal jury found Hewitt, 30, and Dooley, 39, both of Kansas City, Missouri, guilty of participating in a conspiracy to deprive the victim of his civil rights and one count of deprivation of rights. Co-defendants Jen-I Pulos, 34, and Dakota Pearce, 27, both of Kansas City, Missouri, had pleaded guilty the week prior to the trial. Pearce pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy and Pulos pleaded guilty to the deprivation of rights.
“The sentences handed down in this case show that law enforcement officers who break the law, violate their oaths, and deprive inmates of their civil rights will be held accountable for their actions” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division.
“Nobody is above the law,” said U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison of the Western District of Missouri. “These former corrections officers abused their authority and violated the civil rights of an inmate by physically assaulting him while he was restrained and not posing any threat. As the prosecution of these former officers demonstrates, the Constitution equally protects the rights of all citizens, and equally upholds the accountability of all citizens.”
Hewitt, Dooley, Pulos, and Pearce were formerly employed as corrections officers at the Jackson County Detention Center. Hewitt and Pearce served as acting sergeants. Dooley and Pulos served on the Disturbance Control Team, also known as the Correctional Emergency Response Team, which is responsible for intervening in inmate altercations and neutralizing threats posed by inmates.
The victim, identified in court documents as “J.R.,” was an inmate at the detention center. On July 4, 2015, J.R. was detained on a probation violation related to the monitoring of his release conditions for a felony driving while intoxicated conviction. J.R. was placed in the medical housing unit of the detention center because he was severely confused and disoriented, as he was experiencing severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
At about 7 p.m. another corrections officer allowed J.R. to walk in a secure area outside of his cell. J.R., clearly disoriented and unaware of his whereabouts, attempted to exit the secure area. The corrections officer and J.R. then had a brief physical struggle; the corrections officer called a Code 1, indicating to other officers that she needed assistance.
Hewitt and Pearce responded and placed J.R. in a holding cell. Hewitt, Dooley, Pulos, and Pearce were upset that a supervisor decided J.R. would not be placed in a “restraint chair,” which was commonly used to punish unruly inmates, because J.R. was clearly disoriented and unaware of his surroundings. Several hours later, Dooley and Pulos entered J.R.’s cell, purportedly to remove a comb that had been fashioned into a “shank.” They removed J.R. and transported him to a holding cell (which was out of the range of surveillance cameras). In this holding cell, Hewitt, Dooley, Pulos, and Pearce physically assaulted J.R., while he was handcuffed and not posing a threat to anyone, in order to punish him for the earlier incident. At times during the incident, one of the officers stood outside of the cell and served as a lookout in attempt to ensure that the assault was concealed from other witnesses.
Several hours after the second incident, medical professionals at the detention center decided to transfer J.R. to Truman Medical Center out of a belief that his alcohol withdrawal symptoms had worsened. Truman Medical personnel working in the emergency room, however, quickly determined that J.R. had sustained significant injuries unrelated to alcohol withdrawal. Medical personnel ultimately diagnosed J.R. with broken ribs, a punctured lung, facial bruising, and injuries to his wrists.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Ketchmark of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Missouri, and Trial Attorney Shan Patel and Special Litigation Counsel Fara Gold of the Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section, U.S. Department of Justice. It was investigated by the Kansas City Division of the FBI.