Two Former Tennessee Correctional Officers Sentenced for Civil Rights Offenses | OPA

Two former Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) correctional officers were convicted today of assaulting an inmate in violation of a federal civil rights law.

Nathaniel Griffin, 31, and Tanner Penwell, 24, were both sentenced to one year and one day in prison plus three years supervised release. These are the final verdicts following a staff attack on an inmate in a cell in the Mental Health Division of the Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville, Tennessee. Four other former officials had previously pleaded guilty to the case and were convicted in federal court.

“When law enforcement officers abuse their authority, they undermine public confidence in the law enforcement and that is unacceptable,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “No correctional officer is above the law and the Justice Department will not tolerate violations of civil rights. We are committed to ensuring that all correctional officers keep federal prisons safe and secure and perform their duties with the utmost integrity. “

“The US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee will continue to give priority to prosecuting public employees who violate the civil rights of others,” said Acting US Attorney Joseph C. Murphy Jr. for the Western District of Tennessee . “Our goal is to ensure that everyone – regardless of who they are or are in the community – is treated by public officials in accordance with the requirements of the US Constitution.”

“When law enforcement officers abuse their authority and harm inmates, it not only violates our civil rights laws, but undermines the criminal justice system as a whole,” said FBI Memphis Field Office Special Agent Douglas M. Korneski. “These rulings should send a clear message that the FBI is making it a priority to bring any law enforcement officer to justice who violates the civil rights of those they have sworn to protect.”

In 2019, Griffin and Penwell both pleaded guilty to using unlawful violence while acting under the color of the law. In connection with their guilty guilty confessions, Griffin and Penwell admitted that they had beaten the inmate, identified by the initials RT on the indictment, after he had already been beaten by another officer. They also admitted that they beat RT even though he did not threaten them or the other law enforcement officers. In total, RT was beaten by officers more than 30 times. All three officers who attacked RT eventually pleaded guilty to violating federal citizenship rights.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Memphis Field Office with assistance from TDOC and by District Attorney Rebekah J. Bailey of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant Attorney General David Pritchard of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of. prosecuted Tennessee.

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