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State prison guards in Pinckneyville accused of beating restrained inmate then lying about it

A federal grand jury has indicted three correctional officers at a state prison in Pinckneyville, accusing two of them of beating an inmate who was handcuffed and in leg irons and trying to cover it up in written reports.

The third officer is accused of failing to intervene when the alleged beating was taking place at Pinckneyville Correctional Center.

The indictments were issued Tuesday, according to a Wednesday announcement by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois.

The accused officers are Cord A. Williams, 35, Christian L. Pyles, 25, and Mark C. Maxwell, 52, a release states. Williams and Pyles were indicted on charges of violation of civil rights under color of law, conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice. They were also charged with filing false reports.

The indictment alleges the incident happened on April 24, 2022. Williams and Pyles are accused of beating “an inmate who was fully restrained with his hands cuffed behind his back and secured in leg irons,” the release states.

Maxwell is charged with a civil rights violation, with the indictment alleging he was working as an acting lieutenant and failed to intervene as the inmate was beaten.

The indictment also alleges that Williams and Pyles “colluded with other officers to file false reports about the incident.”

Details of what led to the alleged beating are included in a 10-page indictment. The indictment refers to the inmate as ``J.T.”

“ Inmate J.T. was outside walking from the prison cafeteria back to his housing unit when he got into a verbal dispute with other inmates who were inside a different housing unit,” the indictment states.

A correctional officer referred to as E.S. intervened, and as he tried to handcuff J.T., the inmate spun around and punched the officer in the head, knocking him to the ground, the indictment states.

Other officers came to the aid of E.S., and an officer working ``in the tower” immediately announced a ``Code 1” over the radio, alerting others that an officer was in distress. J.T. was placed in leg irons and handcuffed, the indictment states.

“He was escorted from the prison yard to an evaluation room inside the prison’s Health Care Unit where he was subjected to a retaliatory beating despite being fully restrained in handcuffs and leg irons,” the indictment states.

The prisoner was allegedly kicked and punched during the beating.

The indictment alleges that the correctional officers agreed to create a false narrative for their reports.

The indictment states that “those completing incident reports falsely claimed that after J.T. was taken to the Evaluation Room, that he continued to be combative, attempted to kick staff, verbally threatened staff, and was physically secured on the floor to prevent further staff assault.

“ The various narrative reports were prepared to make it appear that force was used in a good faith effort to gain compliance over an unruly inmate,” the indictment states. . “The reports were materially false because once he arrived at the Health Care Unit, J.T. was not combative, did not attempt to kick staff, did not make verbal threats, and was not secured on the floor to prevent staff assault.

“Force was not used in good faith to gain compliance over an unruly inmate. “

Illinois State Police are leading the investigation into the incident. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft is prosecuting the case.

“Accusations of unlawful misconduct by correctional officers must be investigated in order to protect the integrity of the criminal justice system,” U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe stated in a news release.