ST. LOUIS - Carl Hart, a former Missouri prison guard, pleaded guilty to federal charges on Tuesday, admitting to assaulting an inmate and possessing child pornography. Hart, 37, was a sergeant at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre during the time of the assault on October 28, 2021.
According to Hart's plea agreement, he had a verbal disagreement with the victim, an inmate in the facility. In response, Hart ordered the victim out of his office. When the inmate did not immediately return to his cell, two other corrections officers pepper-sprayed him. The victim sought refuge in the showers to wash off the spray. Hart admitted to striking the victim while he was in the shower and again after he had left the shower and was on the ground, handcuffed, and compliant. The victim suffered head lacerations, facial swelling, a black eye, numb arms, and ongoing rib pain as a result of the assault.
In a separate investigation, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received a tip regarding suspected child pornography in Hart's Dropbox account. The Missouri Highway Patrol Digital Forensics Unit conducted an investigation and discovered child pornography in Hart's Dropbox account and on one of his phones, as confirmed by his plea agreement.
Hart pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Ronnie L. White to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law and two counts of possession of child pornography. The civil rights charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. Each child pornography charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Hart is scheduled to be sentenced on August 24. Additionally, he faces child pornography charges in St. Francois County Circuit Court.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Missouri Highway Patrol, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Krug prosecuting the case.