(U.S. DEPT. OF JUSTICE NEWS RELEASE) – A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Jonathan York and Tommy Morris, two former correctional officers at the Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville, Tennessee, with federal civil rights, conspiracy, and obstruction offenses, announced Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee D. Michael Dunavant, and FBI-Memphis Special Agent in Charge M.A. Myers.
The indictment alleges that, on Feb. 1, 2019, Correctional Officer Jonathan York and other officers entered the cell of an inmate identified by the initials R.T. York allegedly directed a fellow correctional officer to cover the surveillance camera in the cell and then he repeatedly punched R.T. York allegedly directed another officer to hit R.T. A third officer also punched R.T. As a result of the unjustified use of force by the officers, R.T. suffered bodily injury.
The indictment alleges that Corporal Tommy Morris violated R.T.’s civil rights when Morris knew of the unjustified staff assault on R.T., but failed to intervene to stop the officers. The indictment charges Morris and York with conspiring to cover up the use of unlawful force on R.T. Finally, the indictment charges Morris with obstructing justice by encouraging correctional officers to provide false and misleading information about the circumstances surrounding the injuries R.T suffered.
The defendants face statutory maximum sentences of 10 years for the civil rights count; five years for the conspiracy charge; and 20 years for each obstruction count.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Former correctional officers Cadie McAlister, Nathaniel Griffin, Tanner Penwell, and Carl Spurlin Jr. entered guilty pleas for criminal offenses arising out of the assault of inmate R.T.
This case was investigated by the Memphis Division of the FBI with the support of the Tennessee Department of Corrections, and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Rebekah J. Bailey of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant United States Attorney David Pritchard of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee.