Former correctional officer sentenced after assisting white supremacist assault on Black detainees: DOJ

His orders led to an attack of two Black detainees by white supremacist inmates.

December 6, 2022, 12:52 PM

A former supervisory correctional officer in Oklahoma was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for “abusing his position of power and authority to … facilitate an attack carried out by white supremacists on a Black inmate,” according to the Department of Justice.

Former officer Matthew Ware, 53, from the Kay County Detention Center, violated the civil rights of three pretrial detainees held at the facility, according to a federal jury.

Ware allegedly ordered lower-ranking correctional officers in May 2017 to move two Black pretrial detainees to a cell row housing white supremacist inmates whom Ware knew posed a danger to the detainees, according to court documents and the evidence presented in the trial.

Later that same day, Ware gave officers an order to unlock the jail cells of the two Black detainees and those of the white supremacist inmates at the same time the next day, the DOJ said.

Ware’s orders led to an attack on the two Black detainees by the white supremacist inmates, resulting in physical injury to both, including a facial laceration to one that required seven stitches to close, according to the DOJ statement.

PHOTO: In this undated file photo, a jail cell is shown.
In this undated file photo, a jail cell is shown.
STOCK IMAGE/Getty Images

Ware was the lieutenant of the detention center at the time.

The DOJ said that as the acting captain of the facility in 2018, Ware ordered lower-ranking officers to restrain a pretrial detainee in a stretched-out position, with the detainee’s left wrist cuffed to the far-left side of the bench and his right wrist cuffed to the far-right side of the bench.

He was left restrained in this position for 90 minutes, which resulted in a physical injury, according to the U.S. attorney general’s office, which said this was done in retaliation for the detainee sending Ware a note that critiqued how Ware ran the detention center.

A federal jury found Ware guilty on Monday of "willfully depriving two pretrial detainees of their right to be free from a correctional officer’s deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm and of willfully depriving a third pretrial detainee of the right to be free from a correctional officer’s use of excessive force,” a statement from the Department of Justice said.

"This sentence handed down reflects the seriousness of the defendant’s actions and ensures accountability for his unlawful conduct," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement Monday.

Following his prison sentence, he will be under supervised release for three more years.

"Mr. Ware violated the laws he was sworn to uphold, betrayed the public trust and dishonored the many brave corrections officials who lawfully perform their important work each day,” U.S. Attorney Robert J. Troester for the Western District of Oklahoma said in a statement from the DOJ. “My office remains committed to protecting the civil rights of all Oklahomans, including those in custody.”

Ware’s legal representation did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.