October 4, 2022

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Former Tennessee Supervisory Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Violations for Assaulting Inmate

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Former supervisory corrections officer Kenan Lister, 43, pleaded guilty today to two civil rights offenses: one count of deprivation of rights under color of law for using unlawful force on an inmate and one count of being deliberately indifferent to the inmate’s medical needs. 

The facts admitted in the plea agreement establish that, on Aug. 30, 2019, Lister assaulted an inmate in a holding cell at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility in Hartsville, Tennessee. At the time, Lister was on duty as the facility’s security threat group coordinator. While the inmate was sitting calmly in a holding cell, Lister punched the inmate in the head, knocking him to the ground. Lister then kicked, punched, and struck the inmate multiple times in his head, chest, and torso after he was on the ground and not resisting. The assault fractured the inmate’s ribs and punctured his lung. After the assault, Lister knew that the inmate had serious medical needs. Despite this knowledge, Lister failed to provide medical care to the inmate or obtain medical care from others. Instead, Lister left the inmate locked in a holding cell and filed a report that omitted any mention of his assault.

“The defendant abused his power as a supervisory corrections officer by brutally assaulting a person in his custody,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Officers who willfully use excessive force in our jails and prisons not only violate the Constitution, they erode the public trust in law enforcement. The Justice Department is committed to prosecuting these abuses of power and upholding the Constitutional rights that protect us all.”

“All persons, including prison inmates, are guaranteed under the Constitution the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment,” said U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin for the Middle District of Tennessee. “I commend our partners at the FBI and the prosecution team for their diligent work in bringing this case and ensuring accountability for the unlawful actions of a prison guard.”

“When a correctional officer violates the civil rights of an inmate whose safety he is charged with, it undermines the respect and reputation of all law enforcement officers,” said Special Agent in Charge Douglas Korneski of the FBI Memphis Field Office. “The FBI will vigorously investigate and bring to justice any law enforcement officer who violates the constitution and the trust of the people.”

Sentencing is scheduled for August 17. Lister faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, as well as a maximum of three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.

The case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda J. Klopf for the Middle District of Tennessee and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Michael J. Songer.

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