Three former Mississippi Department of Corrections staff members who pleaded guilty to hitting and kicking an inmate while the person lay on the ground and striking the individual with a pepper spray canister in 2019 will serve up to three years in federal prison, the Justice Department announced.
Former corrections officers Jessica Hill and LaToya Richardson and case manager Nicole Moore, who were sentenced Wednesday, used excessive force against an incarcerated person identified as L.C. at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in July 2019.
The staff members assaulted L.C. while the inmate lay in the fetal position and didn’t resist, according to court records. Hill hit L.C. several times with the canister and punched her in the head. Richardson kicked L.C. four times in the head and upper torso, and Moore kicked her once in the back of the head. Hill continued to hit L.C. until another prison staff member intervened, according to court records.
“The defendants in this case ignored their sworn duty to protect inmates and chose violence instead,” U.S. Attorney Todd W. Gee for the Southern District of Mississippi said in a statement. “We will continue to prosecute those who abuse their positions of authority and violate the civil rights of inmates.”
Senior Judge Tom Lee sentenced Hill and Richardson to three years and one month in federal prison with two years of supervised release, according to a news release from the DOJ. Moore received two years in prison and two years of supervised release. All were ordered to pay a $1,500 fine.
The maximum prison sentence they faced was 10 years with three years supervised release and a fine up to $250,000 and mandatory special assessment of $100, according to court records.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said the DOJ is committed to prosecuting prison officials who violate the law and their oaths and subject incarcerated people to cruel and unusual punishment – a violation of their 8th Amendment right.
Special Agent in Charge Jermicha Fomby of the FBI Jackson Field Office said incarcerated people are guaranteed protection from harm by the correctional officers responsible for their care. Hill’s actions were a deliberate violation of trust and a disservice to people in prison and other correctional staff.