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Two West Virginia Jail Guards Plead Guilty in Detainee Death, Six More Charged

Six guards at West Virginia’s Southern Regional Jail were charged on November 30, 2023, in the fatal beating of pretrial detainee Quantez Burks, 27, less than a month after two fellow guards pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges in his death.

Burks had been held just one day on a wanton endangerment charge when he was handcuffed and beaten to death by guards on March 1, 2022, allegedly in retaliation “for his earlier attempt to leave his assigned pod,” according to a press release from the federal Department of Justice (DOJ).

Guards Andrew Fleshman, 21, and Steven Nicholas Wimmer, 24, pleaded guilty in federal court for the Southern District of West Virginia on November 2, 2023, to conspiring to violate Burks’ civil rights; they face sentencing in June 2024. See: United States v. Fleshman, USDC (S.D. W.Va.), Case No. 5:23-cr-00133; and United States v. Wimmer, USDC (S.D. W.Va.), Case No. 5:23-cr-00134.

DOJ then announced that a grand jury had returned an indictment against five fellow guards allegedly involved in the assault: Mark Holdren, 39; Cory Snyder, 29; Johnathan Walters, 35; Jacob Boothe, 25; and Ashley Toney, 23. They and supervising guard Lt. Chad Lester, 33, were also charged in an attempted cover-up of the crime. Only Toney was granted bond and released. Trial for all six guards was set to begin in late April 2024. See: United States v. Holdren, USDC (S.D. W.Va.), Case No. 5:23-cr-00188.

The state medical examiner ruled Burks’ death was due to natural causes, but the victim’s mother, Kimberly Burks, said the family wasn’t provided with a copy of the autopsy report nor even notified of the death by the jail. Latasha Williams, Burks’ fiancée, said she was trying to arrange his bond when a Raleigh County Magistrate’s Office employee nonchalantly informed her that he was dead.

Burks’ family has filed suit in the Court accusing jail healthcare contractor PrimeCare Medical of negligently causing his death with inadequate treatment after his assault. The family is represented by Beckley attorney Stephen P. New and co-counsel Emilee B. Wooldridge, from New’s eponymous firm, and Erik S. Frederickson of Harman Law Firm in Atlanta. See: Cooper v. PrimeCare Medical, Inc., USDC (S.D.W.Va.), Case No. 5:24-cv-00083.

What isn’t yet clear is how the suit may be affected by a bankruptcy case filed by PrimeCare Medical of West Virginia in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on January 17, 2024. PLN will update developments as they are available. See: In re PrimeCare Med. of W.Va., USBC (S.D.W.Va.), Case No. 6:24-bk-60001.  


Additional sources: Beckley Register-Herald, CBS News, WCHS, WVNS

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Related legal cases

Cooper v. PrimeCare Medical, Inc.

In re PrimeCare Med. of W.Va.

United States v. Fleshman

United States v. Wimmer

United States v. Holdren