On April 10, the Department of Justice announced a former member of Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex’s (EKCC) internal affairs department pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of an inmate’s civil rights, and a former EKCC sergeant pleaded guilty to three counts of obstruction of justice for attempting to cover up their roles in the assault of a restrained inmate.

According to their plea agreements, both James D. Benish and Randy L. Nickell acknowledged that on July 24, 2018, they witnessed fellow EKCC correctional officers assault a “non-violent inmate who was lying face-down, wearing handcuffs and leg shackles, and isolated in a prison shower cell.” 

Benish admitted that he was present in the shower during the assault and failed to intervene and protect the inmate, despite having the means and opportunity to do so, in violation of the inmate’s civil rights.

Nickell, who stood outside of the shower while the assault occurred, admitted to omitting the assault from his occurrence report, and to lying to both the supervisor assigned to investigate the incident and to a Kentucky State Police detective.

Benish and Nickell are scheduled to be sentenced on December 11. Benish faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Nickell faces a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.

Recently, other Kentucky correctional officers have been the focus of similar investigations. In October of 2022, Chilivis Grubman attorneys discussed the superseding indictment against three Kentucky federal correctional officers for assaults against three inmates at the U.S. Penitentiary-Big Sandy. The indictment in that case also alleged that the defendants attempted to conceal the assault by authoring fictitious reports of the incident.

The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with federal criminal investigations.  If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.