State

Former guard at Kentucky jail could become an inmate after admitting assault

A former supervisory deputy at the jail in Perry County has admitted to assaulting an inmate, becoming the fourth former guard at the jail convicted of using improper force.

Matthew Baron Amburgey, 29, pleaded guilty Wednesday before chief U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell. Caldwell scheduled sentencing for April.

Amburgey pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and faces a maximum of one year in prison, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan Jr.

The assault happened in October 2011. Documents in Amburgey’s case don’t name the victim, but he was identified as Alex Taulbee in a related case.

Taulbee had been arrested for impaired driving.

While Taulbee was being booked into the Kentucky River Regional Jail, a supervisory deputy named Damon Wayne Hickman punched him in the side of the head without warning, according to court documents.

Taulbee had been arrested with a female relative of Hickman’s, according to the court record.

Hickman hit Taulbee so hard he broke his own hand.

After Hickman left, Amburgey and other deputy jailers knocked Taulbee to the floor even though he wasn’t causing any problem and then kicked him repeatedly, according to court records.

Hickman pleaded guilty in connection with a separate 2013 assault at the jail that led to the death of an inmate named Larry Trent, 54, who was being held on a charge of driving under the influence.

Hickman acknowledged that he and another deputy jailer, William Curtis Howell, kicked and punched Trent and left him bleeding on the floor of a cell without getting treatment for him.

A maintenance worker found Trent 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 was convicted at trial of subjecting Trent to excessive force and not getting medical help for him.

Caldwell sentenced Hickman to 10 years and six months in jail. He is appealing that sentence.

Howell is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

In yet another case, Kevin Asher, a former supervisor at the jail in Hazard, was convicted of beating an inmate and writing a false report to cover up the assault. He was sentenced to nine years in prison but is appealing the conviction.

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