State

He once guarded inmates. Now he’ll be one after beating a prisoner who died.

A former guard at the jail in Hazard was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years and six months in federal prison for beating an inmate who later died.

Damon Wayne Hickman, 40, will have to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence, or nearly nine years. That is because there is no parole in the federal court system, but inmates can shave time off their sentences through good conduct.

Hickman will be on supervised release for three years after he gets out of prison.

U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell sentenced Hickman in federal court in London.

“The criminal conduct in this case was a disgraceful breach of public trust, a grave disservice to truly dedicated law enforcement personnel, and an appalling violation of a man’s civil rights,” acting U.S. Attorney Carlton Shier said in a news release. “Holding law enforcement officials accountable for violations of the public trust we place in them is absolutely critical to making our communities safer.”

Hickman, once a supervisory deputy at the Kentucky River Regional Jail, was accused of assaulting several inmates.

He pleaded guilty last year to three charges involving an inmate named Larry Trent: using excessive force against Trent; failing to get medical help for him; and putting a false entry in a log book indicating that Trent was OK after the assault in order to cover up the crime.

The assault happened in July 2013 as Trent, 54, was being held on a charge of driving under the influence.

Trent ran out of his cell at one point, and Hickman forced him to the floor. Hickman and Curtis Howell, another deputy jailer, then kicked and punched Trent, Hickman acknowledged.

The two left him bleeding on the floor of a cell.

A maintenance worker found him unresponsive about four hours later. He was pronounced dead at the hospital in Hazard.

The main cause of Trent’s death was internal bleeding caused by a pelvic fracture, but blows to his head, torso and extremities contributed to his death, according to a court record.

Howell, 60, who also was convicted, has not been sentenced.

In a separate case, another former supervisor at the jail in Hazard, Kevin Asher, was sentenced to nine years in prison after being convicted of beating an inmate and writing a false report to cover up the beating.

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