Former Boyle County Sheriff’s Deputy Found Guilty of Federal Civil Rights Charges following Multiple Assaults and Obstruction

For Immediate Release

U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Kentucky
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LEXINGTON, Ky. – A federal jury in Lexington, Kentucky, on Monday found former Boyle County, Kentucky, Sheriff’s Deputy Tanner Abbott, 31, guilty of criminal civil rights violations and obstruction of justice.                                                                                                                         

Evidence at trial proved that, during the first four months of 2021, Abbott willfully violated the civil rights of four people by using excessive force while arresting them, and obstructed justice by writing and directing another to write false reports to cover up his violations.

“We’re grateful to this jury of Kentucky citizens who held an officer accountable for repeatedly and violently brutalizing people he was arresting, even though they were not resisting arrest and did not pose a threat,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This prosecution makes clear our commitment to confronting law enforcement criminality from the bottom to the top. The Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute law enforcement officers who abuse their authority and violate their public trust by preying upon those they are sworn to protect.”

“This case is a disgraceful example of betrayal of trust, a profound violation of the rights of others, and a danger to our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Carlton S. Shier IV for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “When those charged with enforcing the law and protecting the public turn to violating the rights of others and trying to cover it up, that does real damage. It not only injures victims, but also undermines the hard work and true dedication of so many in law enforcement. The defendant will now face the consequences of such a grave betrayal of the public trust.

“Law enforcement officers are given a gun, a badge and an incredible amount of power when it comes to protecting the communities they serve,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael E. Stansbury of the FBI Louisville Field Office. “Therefore, when the FBI learns of allegations of color of law violations, they are taken seriously and investigated rigorously. Through our thorough investigation of former Sheriff Deputy Abbott, and re-enforced by the jury’s guilty findings, it was found that on more than one occasion, he clearly abused his power and deprived individuals of their civil rights. Seeking justice for victims of police misconduct continues to be of the upmost importance to the FBI.”

According to evidence presented at trial, on Jan. 20, 2021, Abbott conducted a traffic stop on two young men driving to a restaurant in Danville, Kentucky. When the driver requested to speak with the defendant’s supervisor, Abbott punched him in the face, pulled him out of the car and struck him several more times as he lay on the ground, not resisting arrest or posing any threat. When the passenger, the driver’s brother, stepped out of the car and pleaded with Abbott to stop the beating, the defendant struck him in the face with an elbow, breaking his glasses.

On Feb. 2, 2021, Abbott was involved in another traffic stop during which the passenger of the stopped vehicle was arrested. While the passenger was being handcuffed, the defendant suddenly and without justification punched him in the face, although the passenger’s actions posed no threat to the defendant at the time. The defendant then conspired with another officer to write a report in which the other officer falsely alleged that the victim had advanced aggressively toward Abbott before being punched.

On March 31, 2021, the defendant went to a hotel in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, intending to search the room of a guest. He obtained a key to the room he wished to search by falsely representing to hotel staff that he had a search warrant, then used the key to force his way into the room, over the guest’s objection. Once inside, without consent or other lawful authority, he conducted an intrusive search of the guest’s personal property. Abbott then wrote a false report in which he claimed the guest had consented to the search.

On April 28, 2021, the defendant arrested a driver who had failed to pull over when the defendant attempted to conduct a traffic stop of his car. After the chase ended and the driver had been arrested and handcuffed, Abbott approached the driver and punched him in the face, although he was not resisting arrest and posed no threat to the defendant or anyone else.

The jury convicted Abbott of four counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, one count of conspiracy, and one count of falsification of records within federal jurisdiction. Abbott was also found not guilty of one count of deprivation of rights under color of law. A sentencing here is scheduled for June 7, at 10:00 AM in Lexington.

The FBI Louisville Field Office investigated the case.

Trial Attorney Alec Ward of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Dembo for the Eastern District of Kentucky are prosecuting the case.

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Top photo credit: Adobe Stock

https://www.justice.gov/usao-edky/pr/former-boyle-county-sheriffs-deputy-found-guilty-federal-civil-rights-charges