4 Mo. COs sentenced for violating inmate's civil rights during beating

The incident drew attention to poor conditions at the Jackson County Detention Center, sparking conversations about building a new facility

By Katie Bernard
The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Four former Jackson County corrections officers were each sentenced to at least two years in prison Thursday for civil rights violations in a 2015 beating that drew attention to poor conditions at the Jackson County Detention Center sparking conversations about building a new facility.

The sentences were announced in a news release from the Department of Justice.

Former officers Travis Hewitt, 30, and Terrance Dooley Jr., 39, were each convicted last year of participating in a conspiracy to deprive a prisoner of his civil rights and of deprivation of rights. Hewitt was sentenced to 45 months, just under four years, in federal prison. Dooley was sentenced to three years in prison.

Former officer Jen-I Pulos, 34, pleaded guilty last year for deprivation of rights and was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Former officer Dakota Pearce, 27, pleaded guilty for his role in the conspiracy and was sentenced to two years in prison.

“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,” said U.S. Attorney for Missouri’s Western District Tim Garrison in the release. “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.”

The charges stemmed from a July 4, 2015 beating in which Dooley and Pulos allegedly removed an inmate from his cell and took him to a holding area away from security cameras where all four guards physically assaulted him.

The inmate, identified in a lawsuit as James J. Ramirez, had arrived at the jail for probation violation. According to court records he was drunk and disoriented and got into a brief struggle with a female corrections officer. The four guards who were later charged, records said, were upset Ramirez was subsequently locked in a cell rather than in a restraint chair.

In 2017, Jackson County paid Ramirez $437,500 to settle his lawsuit. Ramirez was seeking compensation for the injuries he suffered from the beating.

News of the beating in 2015 sparked the creation of at task force to study the detention center. The groups report outlined problems including underpaid guards, unclean conditions, poor security and inadequate medical services.

This report, among other events, led to conversations about building a new jail in the county. In December, the county legislature voted to pay a consulting group $1.3 million to determine how big the jail needed to be and how it should be laid out.


©2020 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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