OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A former supervisor at the Kay County Detention Center in Oklahoma City has been convicted in federal court of allowing white supremacist inmates to attack and harm black inmates, as well as ordering excessive force against an inmate who had criticized him.
The jury found Matthew Ware, 53, guilty of violating the civil rights of three pretrial detainees who were being held at the detention center, according to US Justice Department officials.
Ware placed two inmates awaiting trial at “substantial risk of serious harm” and ordered a prison officer to use excessive force against a third inmate awaiting trial.
“This senior corrections official had a duty to ensure that the civil rights of remand prisoners in his custody were not violated,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Justice. “The defendant abused his power and authority by ordering junior prison officers to violate the constitutional rights of several remand prisoners. The Civil Rights Division will continue to hold corrections officials accountable when they violate the civil rights of inmates and inmates.
Ware was a lieutenant at the detention center on May 18, 2017, when he ordered corrections officers serving under him to move two black remand inmates, D’Angelo Wilson and Marcus Miller, to a row of cells containing supremacist inmates. whites whom Ware knew to be a danger to Wilson and Miller, according to DOJ officials.
Later that same day, he ordered detention officers to unlock Wilson and Miller’s prison cells and the cells of white supremacist inmates at the same time the next morning.
With the prison cells unlocked, the white supremacist inmates attacked Wilson and Miller.
Wilson and Miller were injured in the attack. Wilson suffered a facial laceration that required seven stitches to close, DOJ officials said.
Ware also ordered excessive force against remand inmate Christopher Davis on January 31, 2018.
DOJ officials said Ware was a captain at the prison when Davis sent him a memo criticizing the way he ran the prison.
Ware retaliated by ordering a correctional officer to restrain Davis against a bench in a prone position, with his left wrist bound to the far left of the bench and his right wrist bound to the far right of the bench. Davis was held in that position for 90 minutes, which physically injured him, DOJ officials said.
Attorney Mark Hammons said his client and former prison worker, Stephanie Wright, reported the incident to prison officials and they did not discuss it. He says she then reported it to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI, and was fired from prison for doing so.
“It’s something my client Stephanie Wright had reported, and, frankly, she’s sort of the hero of this story,” Hammons said. “Stephanie Wright was the only person in the Kay County judicial authority system who was willing to report this incident. She reported it to OBSI and the FBI. Without it, there would have been no law enforcement. And yet, despite being the hero of the story, she was punished by those involved in authority for her activities, which is a real miscarriage of justice. She reported all incidents that were prosecuted. And yet, despite being the hero of the story, she was punished by those involved in authority for her activities. It is a justification of the importance of his actions. And she was on an island. She was the one who was ready to do this, to take the fire. And she’s the one who paid the price for doing the right thing.
Ware faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 for each civil rights violation. He will be sentenced in about 90 days.
The Oklahoma City FBI Field Office investigated Ware’s violations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Barry of the Western District of Oklahoma and Trial Attorney Laura Gilson of the Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.
“If you have law enforcement people who feel above the law, we really have no confidence that the justice and legal system is going to work,” Hammons said. “Well, obviously the FBI and the Department of Justice took this very, very seriously as they should and prosecuted him because this type of offense undermines the trust that we have in our entire judicial system. You can’t have people in law enforcement who consider themselves above the law.