4 Essex County Jail guards indicted for beating prisoner

One Essex County correctional officer, two sergeants, and one lieutenant were indicted for civil rights violations in connection with the assault of a federal pretrial detainee.

Officer Damion James, 41, was charged with assaulting the pretrial detainee in violation of his civil rights. Sgt. Herman Pride, 51, Sgt. Jennifer Whitley, 38, and Lt. Nicholas Palma, 46, were charged with failing to intervene to stop the assault.

Sgt. Whitley was also charged with submitting a false report to cover up the assault.

All four defendants will be arraigned on a future date, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig.

According to Honig and documents filed in this case, a federal pretrial detainee at Essex County Correctional Facility (ECCF) squirted a mixture of urine, yogurt, and milk onto a correctional officer on the evening of Aug. 17, 2020.

The detainee subsequently was transported to a disciplinary cell, where James assaulted the detainee, striking him multiple times in the body and face.

Pride, Whitley, and Palma watched the assault, but none of them intervened to stop it.

Two days after the assault, the detainee was taken to the emergency room at University Hospital in Newark.

He was diagnosed with large swelling and tenderness in the right side of his face and discoloration and bruising around his right eye.

The defendants all were required to submit documentation regarding their use of force. None of them submitted any such reports.

Instead, Whitley submitted a report falsely indicating that no force had been used, when, in fact, Whitley, Pride, and Palma had watched James repeatedly assault the pretrial detainee.

Officer Angel Chaparro previously pleaded guilty to his role in the submission of the false report.

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