Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Acting United States Attorney Betsy Steinfeld Jividen of the Northern District of West Virginia jointly announced that a former Elkins, West Virginia Correctional Officer, Adam Joseph Neal Graham, 26, pleaded guilty today in federal court to a civil rights violation for an incident in which he assaulted a handcuffed pretrial detainee.
According to information provided in connection with his guilty plea, Graham was serving as a Correctional Officer at the Tygart Valley Regional Jail on March 9, 2015, when he assisted with the intake screening for the victim, an 18 year-old pretrial detainee. This was the victim’s first arrest. The detainee was handcuffed, sitting on a chair, and acting distraught. Graham told the detainee to “be quiet” several times. Even though the detainee posed no threat to Graham or any other person, Graham applied pressure points to the victim’s shoulder and neck area. Then, suddenly and without warning, Graham grabbed the detainee by the neck and forcefully slammed him to the ground. During the plea hearing, Graham acknowledged that his use of force was not justified by any legitimate law enforcement or correctional objective.
“The U.S. Constitution protects every person in this country, including those who are detained in our jails,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wheeler. “The federal government will actively prosecute those correctional officers, who like the defendant, abuse their authority and violate their oath by unlawfully utilizing physical force as a form of punishment.”
The FBI’s Pittsburgh Division investigated the case. Special Litigation Counsel Gerard V. Hogan and Trial Attorney Olimpia E. Michel of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah W. Montoro of the Northern District of West Virginia prosecuted the case.