A former federal prison guard pleaded guilty to battering an inmate in his custody because “he wanted to teach [the inmate] a lesson.”
Tavoris Bottley, 34, had been charged in May in connection with his June 2017 assault on the inmate, identified in court documents only as A.A. The charges included one count of depriving A.A. of constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment, and another count of falsifying prison records.
The guilty plea included only the first count, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. Bottley’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
As part of the plea agreement, Bottley—formerly a correctional officer at the Federal Correctional Complex in Beaumont, Texas—admitted to retaliating against A.A. because he threw a food tray against the wall, which “angered” Bottley.
Just prior to the assault, Bottley was escorting A.A. to the office of his supervisor, Krystal Ford, to interview him about alcohol use after Ford suspected A.A. “was under the influence of an unknown substance,” court documents recount.
Crucially, Bottley would remove A.A.’s handcuffs, allowing him to walk unencumbered.
Prosecutors said that during the entire period leading up to the assault, A.A. posed no threat and did nothing to suggest he would harm Bottley, Ford or other prison employees.
Bottley and the inmate got into an argument after leaving Ford’s office, prompting Bottley to scream “shut the f— up” and “come at [me],” apparently in an effort “to goad” A.A. into reacting violently while uncuffed.
After the argument, Bottley and Ford took A.A. to the nurse’s station to conduct an alcohol use test, where a nurse placed him alone in a medical holding cell which was then locked. Apparently out of frustration, A.A. threw his dinner tray at the door.
Just seconds later, Ford opened the door to the cell and told Bottley to “take care of it.” She pleaded guilty in May to aiding and abetting the assault. Her lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
Despite a policy of handcuffing inmates before entering their cells, Bottley stormed in and began to pummel A.A., striking him with a closed fist and causing A.A. to fall onto the cell bed. Bottley then punched A.A. twice more “because he was angry that the inmate had talked back to the officers and had thrown the food tray” and because he wanted to “teach A.A. a lesson.”
“I told you to shut the f— up,” Bottley screamed.
A.A. sustained lacerations and swelling from the incident.
The original indictment also charged Bottley with falsifying an incident report by omitting that he punched A.A. in the head three times and by “falsely citing A.A. for attempted assault.” Bottley’s plea did not include an admission to falsifying records.
“When Bottley assaulted this inmate, he violated the inmate’s civil rights and he betrayed the oath of office he swore to uphold when he became a federal Corrections Officer,” Robert A. Bourbon, special agent in charge of the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General, Dallas Field Office, said in a press release.
The Bureau of Prisons, which runs FCC Beaumont, did not respond to a request for comment.