Prosecutors: 3 former juvenile detention officers conspired to assault detainees

Prosecutors: 3 former juvenile detention officers conspired to assault detainees

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A federal grand jury indicted three former White River Juvenile Detention Center officers Friday for their roles in a conspiracy to assault juvenile inmates.

Will Ray, 26, Thomas Farris, 47, and Jason Benton, 42 face are charged with conspiring to and assaulting juvenile detainees at the Batesville, Ark., facility.

The indictment charges that in some instances the defendants used pepper spray on the detainees and then, rather than decontaminating them, shut them in their cells to "let them cook," according to a statement from Patrick C. Harris, Acting U.S. Attorney.

"There is no excuse for correction officers to violate the law," 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 with participating in the Nov. 6, 2013, assault of a 14-year-old boy who had been sleeping in his bunk. According to the indictment, Ray grabbed the boy and held him while another officer could spray the boy in the face with pepper spray.

Farris, in addition to the conspiracy, is charged with assaulting a 17-year-old detainee on Nov. 21, 2013, by pepper spraying him in the face.

Counts four through seven charge Benton with two assaults and with falsifying incident reports related to those incidents.

According to the indictment, Benton assaulted a 16-year-old inmate on June 6, 2012, by grabbing, shoving and choking him.  The indictment also charges that on May 19, 2013, Benton assaulted a 15-year-old detainee by pepper spraying him in the face. According to the court document, "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."

These latest indictments follow the convictions of two former WRJDC supervisors, Captain Peggy Kendrick, 43, and Lieutenant Dennis Fuller, 40, who pleaded guilty on April 26, 2017, to conspiring to assault juvenile inmates.

At that time, Kendrick also pleaded guilty to assaulting a 16-year-old girl using pepper spray.

A sentencing hearing date will be set for her and Fuller after presentence investigation reports are complete.

Harris said the case is being investigated by the FBI's Little Rock Division and is ongoing.

Region 8 News will have more information as details emerge. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for up to the minute updates.

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