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Three jail guards enter pleas
Jul 28, 2004 12:00 am
Three former Wilson County Jail guards – two of them charged with killing an inmate – appeared in court for the first time yesterday since being indicted as part of a long-running prisoner abuse conspiracy.
Former Sgt. Patrick Marlowe, former Cpl. Gary Hale and former officer Shane Conatser were required to post $25,000 bond each after entering not guilty pleas in brief hearings before a federal magistrate yesterday, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. District Court Clerk's office.
Two other former jailers indicted last Friday as the result of an 18-month U.S. Department of Justice investigation – Robert Locke and Robert Brian Ferrell – could be called on to make their initial court appearances as early as today, the clerk's spokesperson said.
The five were named Friday in an eight-count indictment charging a two-year pattern of prisoner abuse and cover-ups, including the fatal beating of inmate Walter S. Kuntz, 43, whose January 2003 head injury death sparked the probe.
All five were charged in the first count of the indictment, which alleges they participated in a conspiracy in which they would "inform and encourage each other by bragging about and re-enacting" the jailhouse beatings they allegedly administered to their victims.
The indictment also charges that as part of the conspiracy the five maintained an oral "knockout list" of victims beaten unconscious in the assaults, which they allegedly covered up by falsifying official reports and denying medical care for their prisoner-victims.
The remainder of the indictment charges each of the five with individual assaults on a total of 11 different inmates, laying Kuntz's death at the hands of Marlowe and Hale, products of families with long histories of local public service.
The indictment alleges Marlowe and Hale "aided and abetted" each other in fatally beating Kuntz, who spent some seven hours in custody after being arrested by Lebanon police on a wide array of charges, including drunken driving and resisting arrest.
After allegedly assaulting Kuntz, which the indictment says "constituted second-degree murder," Marlowe and Hale are then alleged to have "willfully failed to provide necessary and appropriate medical care" for the beaten prisoner.
Kuntz's death was labeled a homicide after an autopsy by the state medical examiner, who concluded his injuries were "consistent" with those found in a beating.
A statement released by the DOJ at the time the indictments were returned said both Marlowe and Hale face potential maximum penalties of life imprisonment in addition to a $250,000 fine each.
Their three co-defendants also face substantial penalties, according to the DOJ statement, which said each of the remaining three face potential maximum sentences of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine each.
Marlowe is the only defendant named in every charge of the indictment, which identifies him as "an organizer and leader… manager and supervisor" of the alleged conspiracy.
The one-time supervisor of the jail's 4 p.m.-midnight "second shift" resigned shortly after the probe began, telling officials he was "tired of the hassles" created by the investigation.
Hale remained suspended with pay for the duration of the 18-month probe, resigning shortly before the indictment was returned, with Conatser departing the department at about the same time.
Though Ferrell left the department last year, Locke remained on the job until resigning just a few hours before the indictment was returned, officials said.
The five indicted former officers join four others who pleaded guilty to charges filed against them earlier in federal informations.
Last November former guard William Westmoreland pleaded guilty to assault charges while former co-worker Travis Bradley pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about a separate jailhouse beating.
In April former jailer John McKinney – who was working as a patrol officer by the time the probe began – pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a prisoner beating he witnessed but did not reveal in his official written report on the incident.
Two months later former Cpl. Chris McCathern also pleaded guilty to a felony civil rights charge for his participation in an assault on a prisoner.
The charges to which the four have already pleaded guilty are all identified in the indictment as parts of the conspiracy allegedly committed by the remaining five defendants, according to the DOJ statement.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at email@example.com.