NATIONAL NEWS

West Virginia jail officers plead guilty to conspiracy charge in fatal assault on inmate

Nov 2, 2023, 11:14 AM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Two West Virginia corrections officers pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony conspiracy charge stemming from the fatal beating of an inmate in a case that has brought scrutiny to conditions and deaths at the jail.

Southern Regional Jail officers Andrew Fleshman and Steven Wimmer entered the pleas during separate hearings in U.S. District Court in Beckley. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Their sentencings have been set for Feb. 22.

The officers were charged in a criminal information that they conspired to deny Quantez Burks’ right to due process of law. Burks, 37, was a pretrial detainee at the jail in Beaver who died less than a day after he was booked into the jail in March 2022 on a wanton endangerment charge.

According to court documents, Burks tried to push past an officer in order to leave his housing unit. Burks then was escorted to an interview room, where Wimmer and Fleshman assaulted Burks while he was handcuffed and posed no threat. Burks then was taken to a prison cell in another housing unit where he was assaulted again, prosecutors said.

The state medical examiner’s office attributed Burks’ primary cause of death to natural causes, prompting the family to have a private autopsy conducted. The family’s attorney revealed at a news conference last year that the second autopsy found the inmate had multiple areas of blunt force trauma on his body.

Earlier this week a federal magistrate judge cited the “intentional” destruction of records in recommending a default judgment in a civil rights lawsuit over conditions at the Southern Regional Jail. In the 2022 class-action lawsuit, current and former inmates described jail conditions as inhumane. The suit referenced a lack of access to water and food, as well as overcrowded conditions and fights that were allowed to continue until someone was injured.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice said the state’s Department of Homeland Security told him the investigation he ordered into jail conditions found no evidence of inhumane treatment. Burks’ mother, Kimberly Burks, told Justice during a town hall meeting earlier this year in Beckley that the state’s findings were “a lie.”

News outlets have reported there were more than a dozen deaths at the Southern Regional Jail last year.

State Homeland Security Secretary Jeff Sandy retired in July and was replaced by Mark Sorsaia, an assistant prosecutor in Putnam County.

National News

Associated Press

Several gun bills inspired by mass shooting are headed for final passage in Maine

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A series of gun safety bills introduced after the deadliest shooting in Maine history appears to be headed toward final passage as the state Legislature races to wrap up its session this week. The House followed the Senate on Monday in approving the governor’s omnibus gun safety bill that strengthens the […]

39 minutes ago

Image: Former President Donald Trump speaks to the press in Manhattan state court in New York City ...

Associated Press

Trump’s hush money trial gets underway; 1st day ends without any jurors selected

The historic hush money trial of Donald Trump got underway Monday with the arduous process of selecting a jury to hear the case.

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Abu Ghraib detainee shares emotional testimony during trial against Virginia military contractor

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A former detainee at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison described to jurors Monday the type of abuse that is reminiscent of the scandal that erupted there 20 years ago: beatings, being stripped naked and threatened with dogs, stress positions meant to induce exhaustion and pain. The testimony from Salah Al-Ejaili, a […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Judge orders psych evaluation for Illinois man charged in 4 killings

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) — A judge on Monday ordered a psychiatric evaluation for a northern Illinois man charged with killing four people and injuring seven others by stabbing, beating and driving over them. Winnebago County Judge Debra Schafer ordered the evaluation for Christian Soto when the 22-year-old man appeared in court by video link for […]

12 hours ago

Associated Press

Paris Hilton backs California bill to bring more transparency to youth treatment facilities

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Paris Hilton joined California state lawmakers Monday to push for legislation aimed at cracking down on the industry that cares for troubled teens by requiring more transparency from youth treatment facilities. The bill supported by the Hilton Hotel heiress and media personality aims to pry open information on how short-term residential […]

14 hours ago

Associated Press

California officials sue Huntington Beach over voter ID law passed at polls

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP) — California officials on Monday sued Huntington Beach over a new law that lets the city require voters to provide identification to cast ballots at the polls starting in 2026. The state’s Attorney General Rob Bonta said the measure approved by voters in the Southern California city of nearly 200,000 people […]

15 hours ago

West Virginia jail officers plead guilty to conspiracy charge in fatal assault on inmate