Oct. 14—CATLETTSBURG — A former Boyd County Detention Center Sergeant was convicted Wednesday evening of reckless homicide and various degrees of criminal abuse in the 2018 death of 40-year-old Michael Lee Moore, bringing to a close an eight-day trial in Boyd County Circuit Court.
The jury of seven women and five men took approximately six and half hours to arrive at the verdict.
The jury found 31-year-old Brad Roberts guilty of one count of reckless homicide, five counts of first-degree criminal abuse, four counts of second-degree criminal abuse and one count of third-degree criminal abuse.
The jury acquitted Roberts on six charges of first-degree criminal abuse.
The defendant, Roberts, was the supervisor on shift on the night of Nov. 27, 2018, when Moore was booked into the Boyd County Jail on a charge of public intoxication. Over the course of the night, the commonwealth contended Roberts and three other jailer's deputies abused Moore, leading to his death a few days later.
Roberts was facing a 17-count indictment — one count of first-degree manslaughter and 16 counts of first-degree criminal abuse.
The Daily Independent was not able to receive the jury's sentencing recommendation due to deadline constraints.
On Wednesday, Judge George Davis took one and a half hours reading the instructions to the jury, which detailed specifics instances in which Roberts was charged.
The jury also had the option of picking from lesser included offenses — which means a less serious offense than the one charged in the indictment. Reckless homicide was the lesser included offense, as well as second- and third-degree criminal abuse.
Manslaughter is a class B felony, punishable with between 10 and 20 years in prison, while reckless homicide is a one-to-five. First-degree criminal abuse is a class C felony, punishable with between five and 10 years in prison, second-degree criminal abuse is a class D felony punishable with between one and five years in prison and third-degree criminal abuse is a class A misdemeanor punishable with up to a year in prison.
During closing statements, defense attorney Michael Curtis split the charges into two separate types — those where Roberts is accused of giving permission to the deputies and those where he acted directly. On the counts where Roberts acted directly, Curtis argued at most he acted recklessly — which is the threshold for misdemeanor abuse.
"And stupidly," Curtis said.
Curtis pointed to the lack of training at the jail, stating Moore's death was a result of "institutional failures," citing lack of training for the deputy jailers.
"Who put Mr. Roberts in that situation? It was the Boyd Detention Center," he said. "He was trying to be a good father and a good citizen by providing for his wife and two young children. Now his life is on the line."
After going count by count through the state's case, Curtis said there was no proof at all Roberts was guilty on any conduct charged.
"Ladies and gentlemen, if the proof was in the pudding I'd say there it is," Curtis said. "But it's not."
In her closing statements, Boyd County Commonwealth Attorney Rhonda Copley said Roberts "did not need training to be a decent human being." She said rendering aid to Moore after he was dropped to the floor multiple times was something he should've known to do, especially with his background as a volunteer firefighter.
She said at any time through the night of Nov. 27, 2018, and into Nov. 28, 2018, Roberts as the superior officer could've stopped the abuse. He could've shifted around deputies — particularly Zach Messer, who video footage appears to show dishing out most of the abuse — to a different area of the jail, Copley said.
He also could've told officials and medical what happened so Moore could be properly treated, the prosecutor noted. She said the jail should've been a place for Moore to find safety.
"Mr. Moore was an addict and sadly for many families with addicts, when their loved one goes to jail it's a brief sigh of relief because they're safe, they're not out there overdosing," she said. "That didn't happen here."
She too went through the counts, playing to the jury each clip from the video footage gathered in the Kentucky State Police Investigation. After going through each piece of footage, Copley said Curtis' arguments were hot air.
"My assistant here (Gary Conn) told me a quote from an old law professor of his," she said. "When the facts are against you, argue the law. When the law is against you, argue the facts. When both are against you, make a lot of noise. That's what the defense has been doing this entire trial."
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Breakdown of the charges
Count 1: Guilty, reckless homicide
This relates to the incident in which Roberts allowed two deputies to shove Moore into a bathroom sink, which the state argues resulted in the fractured ribs that killed Moore. The reckless homicide means, per the instructions, that Roberts took unjustified risks and acted in "gross deviation of standard care."
Count 2: Guilty, third-degree criminal abuse.
This relates to the incident in which Messer, Roberts' subordinate, bounced Moore's head off a wall in the booking room.
Count 3: Guilty, first-degree criminal abuse
This relates to an incident in which Roberts pointed a TASER at Moore's chest while the inmate was in handcuffs.
Count 4: Guilty, second-degree criminal abuse
This relates to an incident in which Roberts watched Messer leg sweep Moore to the floor. Moore was in handcuffs.
Count 5: Not Guilty
This relates to an incident immediately after Count 4 in which Messer allegedly bodyslammed Moore on the floor and Roberts was accused of stepping on the inmate's wrist.
Count 6: Not Guilty
This relates to an incident in which Roberts was accused of stepping on Moore's foot while the inmate was being taken out of a restraint chair.
Count 7: Not Guilty
This relates to an incident in which Roberts was accused of allowing a deputy to flip Moore upside down in a restraint chair.
Count 8: Guilty, first-degree criminal abuse
This relates to an incident in which Roberts applied a sternum rub to Moore, who was flipped over in the restraint chair.
Count 9: Not Guilty
This relates to an incident in which Roberts was accused of flicking Moore in the head while he was in the restraint chair with a spit guard on his head.
Count 10: Guilty, first-degree criminal Abuse
Roberts yanked Moore's head back and flicked him in the head, while the inmate was strapped to the restraint chair.
Count 11: Not Guilty
This relates to an incident in which Roberts was accused of permitting three deputies to use unnecessary force to secure Moore to the chair.
Count 12: Guilty, second-degree criminal Abuse
This relates to an incident in which Roberts watched Messer throw Moore into the restraint chair — the inmate ended up on the floor.
Count 13: Guilty, second-degree criminal abuse
This is a duplicate of the conduct in Count 1, which Roberts allowed Moore to be thrown into the toilet/sink combination in the booking room bathroom.
Count 14: Guilty, first-degree criminal abuse
This is where Roberts used a drive-stun with his TASER on Moore's leg, while the inmate was strapped in the restraint chair.
Count 15: Not Guilty
This is another incident in which Roberts was accused of stepping on Moore's foot in order to strap him into the restraint chair.
Count 16: Guilty, second-degree criminal abuse
This is an incident in which Roberts watched a deputy throw Moore into the restraint chair, and then Roberts yelled at Moore.
Count 17: Guilty, first-degree criminal abuse
This is an incident in which Roberts struck the back of Moore's head with his forearm and pulled him up by his handcuffs.