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Ex-jailer faces six years behind bars
May 24, 2006 12:00 am
May 13, 2006 — NASHVILLE — Ex-Wilson County jailer Shane Conatser will spend the next six years of his life behind bars, according to a sentence handed down Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell.
In January, a jury found Conatser guilty of conspiring to abuse and cover up the abuse of inmates while a member of the now notorious "second shift" at the county jail.
The ringleader of the jail beatings, Patrick Marlowe, was supposed to be sentenced Friday, as well. But in a last-minute move, federal prosecutors asked the judge for more time to gather and present evidence Marlowe lied to investigators and the jury.
Marlowe's sentencing was delayed until July 6. He is facing a possible life sentence for his conviction on seven of the eight counts he faced.
Before Campbell handed down his sentence, attorneys representing the state argued with Conatser's attorney over adjustments to the federal sentencing guidelines.
The judge also heard emotional testimony from Conatser, as well as his wife, mother and father-in-law – who is a Tennessee State trooper – all of whom begged for his return home.
"Today, I'm asking you to understand things from my position, and to consider what I've been through over the last three-and-a-half years," Conatser said in a statement he read to the court. "Though I feel I was wrongly convicted, I still hold my head high because I know I am innocent."
Conatser also offered "apologies" to the individuals "whose lives were directly affected by this," but fell short of saying he was responsible for the injuries to former inmates.
"Even though it was not by my hand, I offer my sincere apology," Conatser said.
But the pleas from Conatser and the dozen friends and family testifying on his behalf were not enough to persuade prosecutors or the judge to reduce the sentencing range, which was between 70 to 87 months.
U.S. Attorney Stephen Curran asked Campbell to impose the maximum sentence under federal guidelines.
"He comes in here today and says, 'I'm innocent.' That misses the point," Curran said. "He was present during these assaults … He is culpable for the actions of his co-conspirators."
While Campbell agreed, he gave Conatser the lowest possible sentence under the federal guidelines. He also recommended he be housed in a facility in the Nashville or Lebanon area so he can remain close to his family.
Campbell said he chose the length of sentence he did because Conatser had no prior criminal history.
The judge, however, rejected a motion by Conatser's attorney to release him pending an appeal of the sentence.
Campbell said Conatser forfeited his right to be free when he reacted violently to the verdict. Conatser was originally released after the jury convicted him in January, but as soon as he was outside the courtroom he punched a wall in the building.
Campbell explained that incident showed Conatser is unable to control his temper, and therefore poses a danger even to those who testified on his behalf.
As Conatser was led out of the courtroom by bailiffs, he tried his best to smile to his family while he began to choke up.
Members of Conatser's family wept and held each other after he was taken into custody.
Upon exiting the courtroom, Conaster's wife, Jennifer, immediately fell into the arms of the family pastor, Wayne Miller.
Through her sobs she could be heard saying, "This is not happening … This is not happening."
Staff Writer Jared Allen can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 15 or by e-mail at email@example.com.