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Guards Sentenced for Beating Prisoners at Kentucky Jail

by David M. Reutter

Three Kentucky River Regional Jail guards have been sentenced to federal prison terms for beating prisoners in two separate incidents – including one where a prisoner died.

In 2013, guards Damon Wayne Hickman and William C. Howell entered the cell of Larry Trent, 54, to remove a mattress. As they opened the door, Trent ran from the cell. Howell used a stun gun to subdue him, and Trent was prone on the floor when Hickman kicked him in the ribs, prosecutors said.

Trent was dragged back to his cell and the beating continued. “Both deputies, without justification, punched, kicked and stomped on Trent,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. “Witnesses further testified that, before closing the cell door, Howell stepped into Trent’s cell and kicked Trent in the head while Trent was on the floor and posing no threat. After the assault, Hickman and Howell had other inmates clean up Trent’s blood from the floor and walls outside of his cell.”

Trent, who was awaiting trial on a DUI charge, died from internal bleeding caused by a displaced pelvic fracture and blunt force trauma to his head, torso and extremities. His body was found by another guard four hours after the brutal beating. During that time, Howell and Hickman willfully ignored Trent and did not refer him for medical attention. [See: PLN, Jan. 2018, p.63; Mar. 2017, p.63; Oct. 2015, p.37].

Hickman, 40, pleaded guilty to federal charges of excessive force and deliberately ignoring serious medical needs, as well as obstruction of justice for his creation of a fake medical log to cover up the incident. He was sentenced on November 1, 2017 to 126 months in prison. Howell, 60, was convicted after a trial in which Hickman testified against him; he received a 10-year sentence on December 19, 2017. Both must serve around 85 percent of their prison terms before being placed on supervised release.

Hickman also played a vital role in uncovering the November 2012 beating of prisoner Gary Hill, 55, who was in jail on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. According to Hickman’s testimony, he and guard Kevin Asher, 32, entered Hill’s cell because he had run water from the sink until it poured onto the floor. Hickman said he punched Hill in the face, and Hill was in a fetal position when Asher began kicking him. They then placed Hill in a restraint chair, where the beating continued.

Asher filled out a report that falsely claimed Hill had slipped and fallen on the floor, and no force was used against him. A jury convicted Asher of deprivation of civil rights under color of law and obstruction of justice on April 12, 2017; he was sentenced to 108 months in prison plus three years of supervised release. 



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