Sgt. to stand trial for inmate assault cover-up

Jan. 20—ASHLAND — A former sergeant and supervisor at Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in West Liberty accused of lying to investigators is set to face a jury trial in federal court next month.

Eric Nantell, formerly in a supervisor position at the medium security prison, was indicted by the United States government in July 2023 after a federal investigation revealed correctional officers not only participated in a brutal beating of a restrained inmate but lied to outside agencies in an attempt to cover up excessive force.

According to court records, six total former correctional officers under Nantell's supervision were implicated in the assault and/or cover-up and each pleaded guilty for their respective roles.

Per Nantell's indictment, United States prosecutors sought charges of deprivation of civil rights, tampering with a witness, victim or informant and making false statements.

In recently filed documents, an inmate supposedly swallowed contraband to avoid confiscation before "numerous correctional officers handcuffed him, put him in leg shackles, carried him horizontally using all four limbs into a shower, and then assaulted him," a U.S. prosecutor wrote, accusing Nantell of watching despite the allegedly clear use of excessive force.

While all six of the federally indicted correctional officers have reached plea agreements and await a March sentencing date, Nantell's fate will be decided after a five-day jury trial beginning on Feb. 12.

Prosecutors filed their intention to present images of the inmate's injuries and transcripts from Nantell's interviews with Kentucky State Police and the FBI.

According to previous reports and court documents, Nantell told investigators the injuries to the inmate were caused when he was placed on the ground and that he witnessed no extensive force and had no more information to provide the investigators.

The issues for the jury to consider are whether Nantell observed the excessive use of force and whether he knowingly failed to stop his subordinates.

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