Trending Topics

Former Ky. corrections officer sentenced to 5 years over assault on inmate

The CO’s sentence was the longest against six former officers sentenced in connection with an assault on an inmate at the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex

Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex

Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex

John Cheves/TNS

By Bill Estep
Lexington Herald-Leader

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A former Kentucky prison guard who admitted to assaulting an inmate who was handcuffed and shackled has been sentenced to five years in federal prison.

The sentence against Randall T. Dennis was the longest against six former officers sentenced last week in connection with an assault on an inmate at the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex (EKCC) in West Liberty.

The assault happened in July 2018.

Dennis and others were charged with carrying an inmate, identified only as M.M., into a shower, placing him facedown on the floor and then hitting or kicking him.

M.M. was handcuffed and shackled at the legs, and did not threaten the corrections officers or try to hurt them, according to court records.

A prosecutor said in a court document that M.M. had swallowed drugs in an effort to keep them from being confiscated, leading to the officers assaulting him.

Dennis, 28, admitted in his plea agreement that he kicked M.M. in the head while wearing work boots, punched him and stood on his back.

Dennis also acknowledged making a false report to try to cover up the incident.

In letters to the court, supporters described Dennis as a devoted family man with two children with special needs who need his care, and Dennis said in a letter that the five years since the assault had “changed me irreversibly.”

However, U.S. District Judge David Bunning did not go along with a request to sentence Dennis to 12 months on home detention and 2,000 hours of volunteer work at a facility caring for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Dennis is appealing the sentence, according to the court record.

Two other former EKCC officers who took part in the assault and cover-up, James Benish, 37, and Jeffery Havens, 28, also were sentenced last week.

Bunning sentenced Benish to 27 months in prison and Havens to 15 months, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Bunning sentenced a former supervisor, Randy Nickell, 55, and two other former officers who took part in covering up the incident, Nathan Cantrell and Derek Mays , to one month behind bars each, according to the release.

The sentences for Nickell and Cantrell also included five months of home incarceration.

Nickell, Cantrell and Mays were in the hallway outside the shower while Dennis, Benish and Havens hit the inmate, and joined in trying to cover it up, federal authorities said.

A jury convicted a seventh former EKCC officer, Eric Nantell, on charges of failing to intervene to stop the assault and lying about it to investigators.

He has not been sentenced.

“Their conduct was a profound breach of the trust placed in them, a brazen disregard for safety of people in their care and a disgraceful effort to conceal their crime,” U.S. Attorney Carlton S. Shier IV said of the former officers.

The state Department of Corrections, Kentucky State Police and the FBI were involved in the investigation.

©2024 Lexington Herald-Leader.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.