State

Former jail guard convicted of beating inmate who later died

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A former deputy at the regional jail in Hazard assaulted an inmate and ignored his serious medical needs, a federal jury has ruled.

The jury convicted William C. Howell, 60, Thursday evening, deliberating just 90 minutes after a four-day trial, according to a news release from acting U.S. Attorney Carlton S. Shier IV.

Howell is the third former deputy at the Kentucky River Regional Jail convicted in connection with beating an inmate.

Howell was charged with former guard Damon Wayne Hickman in a July 2013 assault on Larry Trent, 54, who was being held on a charge of impaired driving.

After Trent ran out of his cell, Hickman and Howell carried him back in and then punched, kicked and stomped Trent while he lay on the floor, a grand jury charged.

Witnesses testified that before leaving the cell, Howell kicked Trent one last time in the head while he was lying on the floor and posing no threat, according to the news release.

The deputies left Trent bleeding and did not seek medical attention for him.

A maintenance worker found Trent unresponsive about four hours later and called for help. Trent was pronounced dead at the Hazard hospital as a result of internal bleeding.

Hickman pleaded guilty last year to using excessive force, ignoring Trent’s medical needs and making a false entry in a log book to try to cover up the crime.

He has not been sentenced. He faces up to 40 years in prison.

In a separate case, a federal jury convicted another former guard at the jail, Kevin Eugene Asher, of beating an inmate named Gary Hill in November 2012 and making a false report about the incident.

Hickman allegedly took part in that assault as well.

Asher has not been sentenced. One charge against him has a top sentence of 20 years in prison.

The two charges against Howell each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. Howell and Asher are to be sentenced in August.

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