Three former Fayette County Detention Center correction officers pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges that they systematically abused prisoners and tried to cover up their actions by writing bogus reports and threatening others not to report the incidents, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney General Loretta King.
Two of the three have agreed to assist federal prosecutors in their investigation and prosecution of alleged abuse at the jail.
Five former workers were indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2008 on several federal charges, including assaulting inmates, falsifying documents and intimidating witnesses.
Scott Tyree, 46, a former corporal at the jail, pleaded guilty to abusing detainees and authoring false and misleading incident reports to conceal the abuse, according to a news release from King, who works in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Tyree faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
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Kristine Lafoe, 43, a former lieutenant, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to obstruct justice by allowing others to write false and misleading incident reports to justify unnecessary and excessive uses of force. She faces a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Anthony Estep, 34, a former sergeant, pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge and a charge of obstruction of justice for bringing false disciplinary charges in an attempt to hinder and delay the reporting of an assault by the jailers, and for witnessing an incident of abuse by another officer but failing to intervene. He faces a maximum prison sentence of two years and a fine of up to $200,000.
Also indicted last year were John McQueen, who was a sergeant, and Clarence McCoy, who was a corporal.
Four of the defendants were fired by the Urban County Government last year. Tyree had moved to the city's water quality division before the indictment was issued.
All five worked third shift in the detention center's intake unit at the time of the offenses alleged in the indictment. The charges pertained to six people who were pre-trial detainees at the jail. According to the indictment, the incidents of brutality occurred between January and October 2006.
Inmates were abused — in some instances, their heads were slammed into a counter — and other inmates were intimidated out of reporting the abuse, the indictment says. In some incidents, officers wrote bogus reports indicating that an inmate had provoked an officer, according to the indictment. In one instance, officers who witnessed an assault of an inmate were ordered to file false charges against another inmate for having tried to use his cell phone to report the assault, the indictment said.
Tyree's attorney, Fred E. Peters, said he felt that his client was not as culpable as McCoy and McQueen. Tyree, Peters said, "just kind of got caught up in the situation. He admitted to what he did, but he certainly wasn't the instigator or the ringleader."
Peters said he expects his client's sentence to be 24 to 30 months.
"The prosecutor hasn't recommended a fine, and he doesn't have much money," Peters said. "He's a man of modest means, so I doubt he'll get much of a fine."
Patrick Nash, the attorney for Lafoe, said that what his client did was much less serious than what others accused in the case did.
Brian Butler, the attorney for Estep, said he was pleased that non-felony charges were negotiated for his client.