OKLAHOMA CITY – A former supervisory correctional officer at the Kay County Detention Center (KCDC) was sentenced today to 46 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for violating the civil rights of three pretrial detainees held at the KCDC.
On April 15, 2022, a federal jury convicted Matthew Ware, 53, 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.
“This defendant is being held accountable for abusing his position of power and authority to, among other things, facilitate an attack carried out by white supremacists on a Black inmate,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This sentence handed down reflects the seriousness of the defendant’s actions and ensures accountability for his unlawful conduct. The Justice Department will continue to hold corrections officials accountable, including those in leadership positions, when they willfully violate the constitutional rights of detainees and inmates in their custody and control.”
“A jury found that Mr. Ware abused his position of power over the individuals in his custody,” said U.S. Attorney Robert J. Troester for the Western District of Oklahoma. “Today’s sentence holds him accountable for that conduct. 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. My office remains committed to protecting the civil rights of all Oklahomans, including those in custody.”
“The defendant disregarded the civil rights of those under his care and ultimately used his position to inflict physical harm on multiple pretrial detainees,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Today’s sentencing clearly shows the FBI will aggressively pursue any law enforcement officer who abuses their responsibility to protect and serve.”
“The vast majority of the men and women working in correctional institutions do their jobs honorably on a daily basis. However, Mr. Ware’s disgraceful actions undermined the public’s trust and deprived the detainees of their civil rights under the U.S. Constitution,” said Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Gray of the FBI Oklahoma City Field Office. “Rest assured, the FBI will work tirelessly alongside our law enforcement partners to ensure the civil liberties of every American are protected.”
According to court documents and the evidence introduced at trial, on May 18, 2017, Ware, while serving as the Lieutenant of the KCDC, ordered lower-ranking correctional officers to move two Black pretrial detainees, D.W. and M.M., to a cell row housing white supremacist inmates whom Ware knew posed a danger to D.W. and M.M. Later that same day, Ware gave lower-ranking officers a second order: to unlock the jail cells of D.W. and M.M., and those of the white supremacist inmates at the same time the following morning. When Ware’s orders were followed, the white supremacist inmates attacked D.W. and M.M., resulting in physical injury to both, including a facial laceration to D.W. that required seven stitches to close.
Court documents and evidence introduced at trial also revealed that, on Jan. 31, 2018, Ware, while serving as the Acting Captain of the KCDC, ordered lower-ranking correctional officers to restrain another pretrial detainee, C.D., in a stretched-out position — with C.D.’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 — in retaliation for C.D. sending Ware a note that critiqued how Ware ran the KCDC. C.D. was left restrained in this position for 90 minutes, resulting in physical injury.
Assistant Attorney General Clarke, U.S. Attorney Troester, Assistant Director Quesada, and Special Agent in Charge Gray made the announcement.
The FBI Oklahoma City Field Office investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Barry for the Western District of Oklahoma and Trial Attorney Laura Gilson of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case.