LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – Three former White River Juvenile Detention Center officers have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a conspiracy to assault juvenile inmates.
The seven-count Indictment charges that 26-year-old Will Ray, 47-year-old Thomas Farris, and 42-year-old Jason Benton conspired to and did assault juvenile detainees at the detention center in Batesville.
The indictment charges that, in some instances the defendants used pepper spray on the juveniles and then, rather than decontaminating them, shut them in their cells to “let them cook.”
“As I have stated before, there is no excuse for correction officers to violate the law,” Acting U.S. Attorney Patrick C. Harris said. “Correction officers who violate the civil rights of others can expect to, and will be, prosecuted.”
In addition to the conspiracy, Ray is charged in Count Two with participating in the November 6, 2013 assault of a 14-year-old boy who had been lying asleep on his bunk. According to the indictment, Ray grabbed the boy from his bunk and held him so that another officer could spray the boy in the face with pepper spray.
Farris, in addition to the conspiracy, is charged in Count Three with assaulting a 17-year-old juvenile on November 21, 2013, by pepper spraying him in the face.
Counts Four through Seven of the Indictment charge Benton with two assaults and with falsifying incident reports related to those assaults. According to the Indictment, on June 6, 2012, Benton assaulted a 16-year-old juvenile by grabbing, shoving and choking him.
The indictment also charges that, on May 19, 2013, Benton assaulted a 15-year-old juvenile by pepper spraying him in the face. According to the indictment, none of the juveniles posed a physical threat to anyone nor physically resisted in any way at the times they were assaulted by the officers.
Two former White River Juvenile Detention Center supervisors, Captain Peggy Kendrick, 43, and Lieutenant Dennis Fuller, 40, pleaded guilty on April 26, 2016, in federal court before U.S. District Judge James M. Moody Jr. to conspiring to assault juvenile inmates.
Kendrick also pleaded guilty to assaulting a sixteen-year-old girl using pepper spray and to obstructing justice by falsifying an incident report about that assault. The court will set a sentencing hearing date for Kendrick and Fuller after Presentence Investigation Reports are completed.
Kendrick faces a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and Fuller faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Little Rock Field Division and the investigation is ongoing.