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High-ranking corrections official who moved two Black pretrial detainees into the same cell row as white supremacist inmates and unlocked their cells so they can be attacked has been convicted, AAG said

The 53-year-old man, who was working as a supervisory corrections official reportedly facilitated an attack on Black inmates in the jail. The high-ranking corrections official reportedly used excessive force and placed Black detainees in harm’s way by moving them into the same cell row as white supremacist inmates. He then ordered the lower-ranking officers to unlock the cells of the Black inmates and the white supremacists at the same time the next morning. They followed the defendant’s orders and the Black inmates were attacked by the white supremacist inmates. Prosecutors said that both Black inmates were injured.

The 53-year-old man from Oklahoma, Matthew Ware, was convicted on April 14. The defendant was convicted of three deprivations of rights under color of law violations by a federal jury in connection with the assault and other abuse, court records say.

Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division (featured image), reportedly said: “This high-ranking corrections official had a duty to ensure that the civil rights of pretrial detainees in his custody were not violated. The defendant abused his power and authority by ordering subordinate corrections officers to violate the constitutional rights of several pretrial detainees. The Civil Rights Division will continue to hold corrections officials accountable when they violate the civil rights of detainees and inmates.”

The 53-year-old corrections officer now faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and up to $750,000 in fines. Prosecutors said he is accused of ordering corrections officers to move two Black pretrial detainees, D’Angelo Wilson and Marcus Miller, to a cell row that was used to house white supremacist inmates on May 18, 2017. Officials say the lieutenant knew the white inmates posed a danger to the Black ones, the Tribune reports.

On the same day, the 53-year-old jail officer ordered the lower-ranking officers to unlock the cells of the Black inmates and the white supremacists at the same time the next morning. 

According to the court documents, the other corrections officers followed the defendant’s orders and the Black inmates were attacked by the white supremacist inmates. Prosecutors said that both Black inmates were injured and one needed seven stitches to close a wound on his face.

O Jan. 31, 2018, while the defendant served as the Acting Captain, he ordered lower-ranking corrections officer to restrain another pretrial detainee, Christopher Davis, in a stretched-out position — with Davis’ left wrist restrained to the far-left side of the bench and his right wrist restrained to the far-right side of the bench — in retaliation for Davis sending Ware a note that criticized how Ware ran the jail. Davis was left restrained in this position for 90 minutes, resulting in physical injury.

Special Agent in Charge Ed Gray of the FBI Oklahoma City Field Office released the following statement: The preservation of civil rights and the investigation of color of law violations are of utmost priority for the FBI.

If we don’t hold our very own law enforcement officials accountable, those sworn to protect and serve, what hope will the American people have? Mr. Ware’s actions were impermissible and undignified, particularly given his leadership role. His conviction is a prompt reminder that no one is above the law.”

According to Oklahoma’s News 4, former jail employee Stephanie Wright reported this incident to jail leaders and they didn’t address it, her lawyer Mark Hammons said. The former employee then reported it to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI, and was fired by the jail for doing so.

Featured Image – Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division | KCDC