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Not guilty, say ex-guards at youth jail

Three former Arkansas juvenile detention officers indicted this month for conspiring to abuse jailed teenagers pleaded innocent Tuesday in federal court.

The jury trial is set for June 27 before U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson.

A May 5 indictment alleges Thomas Farris, 47; Jason Benton, 42; and Will Ray, 26, worked together to "injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate juveniles" held at White River Juvenile Detention Center in Batesville between 2012 and 2014.

Compliant teenagers were routinely pepper-sprayed, the indictment says. Sometimes they were locked into "Max 1," a cell exposing them to extreme temperatures in the winter and summer months.

At times, teenagers were also bound in emergency restraint chairs for hours.

Officers were "rewarded" with "desirable assignments," the court document says.

Supervisors who ran White River at the time -- Peggy Kendrick, 43, and Dennis Fuller, 40 -- had already confessed to assaulting and needlessly punishing youths and then attempting to cover that up by falsifying use-of-force documents just days before the indictments were handed down.

Kendrick and Fuller's sentencings now await the completion of pre-sentence investigation reports.

The nine-page indictment also revealed that the conspiracy went beyond the Independence County lockup. Other Arkansas facilities sent youths "considered to be problems" to White River, known as a "tough facility" that carried out "promised 'timeouts'" as punishment.

The document alleges there are more officers, who still remain unnamed, involved in the conspiracy.

NW News on 05/19/2017

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