CATLETTSBURG A Boyd County jury recommended a former jail sergeant serve 15 years in prison for the 2018 death of 40-year-old Michael Lee Moore.
The recommendation came in at 10:06 p.m. Wednesday, putting an end cap on the eight-day trial of 31-year-old Brad Roberts. Roberts had been convicted of reckless homicide, five counts of first-degree criminal abuse, four counts of second-degree criminal abuse, one count of third-degree criminal abuse and acquitted on six counts.
The jury recommended Roberts serve five years for reckless homicide and a total of 10 years for all his criminal abuse convictions. Those two sentences would run consecutively, for a total of 15 years.
The maximum sentence for reckless homicide is five years. The maximum for first-degree criminal abuse is 10 years.
Judge George Davis thanked the jurors for their service.
“You’ve gone above and beyond in your duties and have shown exceptional service to your community,” Davis said.
After excusing the jury, Davis set a sentencing date for Roberts on Nov. 12. He remanded Davis to the personal custody of Boyd County Jailer Bill Hensley, who took office early after Joe Burchett resigned in 2018 a week after Moore’s death.
Hensley told defense attorney Michael Curtis Roberts would be held at a different jail, but declined to state public for security concerns.
Roberts, along with former deputies Zachary Messer, Colton Griffith, Jeremy Maddox and Alicia Beller were accused of allowing Moore to be tortured or directly participating in it.
Moore was arrested on the evening of Nov. 27, 2018, on a public intoxication charge. Erratic and clearly intoxicated — testimony revealed he was on a muscle relaxer — Moore was a handful, but not combative, according to his arresting officer.
During his stay at the jail, his head was run into a wall, his body was slammed on the floor, he was thrown into a chair, tossed into a commode and held in a restraint chair for majority of the time. Roberts was the supervisor on shift; Messer allegedly committed the majority of the abuse.
Moore succumbed to injuries on the morning of Nov. 29, 2018, after suffering at least two seizures that morning, one of which caused him to fall off the top bunk.
According to the medical examiner, he died as a result of internal bleeding caused by three fractured ribs in his back area.
While not explicitly stated at trial, jury instructions indicated Moore’s fatal injury came from when he was hurled into the commode.
On his criminal abuse counts, Roberts was recommended to be sentenced to 10 years on one count. That count was related to an incident in which Roberts drive-stunned Moore in the leg while the inmate was in the restraint chair.
A drive stun is when a TASER is activated to spark and arc, but the prods are not deployed. Testimony at trial showed the drive stun is typically used to enforce compliance, not to incapacitate a suspect.
At trial, Curtis argued his client was not adequately trained for his position — which he had taken on three months prior — and could not control his shift.
Following the verdict and the sentencing recommendation, Curtis offered the following statement:
“The jury believed without a doubt my client’s conduct constituted cruelty and torture, especially when he pointed a TASER at someone,” he said. “Leaving that definition of cruelty and torture to ordinary people is a problem anyone faces when they are placed in this situation.”
Boyd County Commonwealth Attorney Rhonda Copley declined to comment, citing future trials in the case.
Griffith, Maddox and Messer are still awaiting trial. Beller took a plea deal in which she agreed to a five-year diverted sentence, which included testifying at trial.
Under Kentucky law, Davis has the option of issuing a lesser sentence but cannot exceed the jury’s recommendation.
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