Former jailer pleads ‘no contest’ to charge he assaulted inmate
Published 9:52 am Monday, August 17, 2015
A former Carter County corrections officer pleaded “no contest” to charges he assaulted an inmate under his care while on duty in August 2014.
Chancelor Sha Patrick Presnell, 23, of Roan Mountain, entered a the nolo contendere plea to one count of official misconduct and one count of simple assault in Criminal Court Friday and was sentenced to serve one year of probation through the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole.
Nolo contendere is a legal term that comes from the Latin for “I do not wish to contend.” It is also referred to as a plea of no contest. Under a nolo contendere plea, the defendant does not admit guilt to the crime or crimes they are charged with.
Presnell entered his plea under judicial diversion, which means he has the chance to get the conviction removed from his record if he successfully completes the terms of his probation.
“If you do everything you are supposed to do, at the end of that one year this can be erased from your record,” Judge Stacy Street told Presnell. “But, if you don’t do what you are supposed to do or if you do something you are not supposed to do, that diversion can be revoked.”
If the diversion is revoked, the convictions would remain on Presnell’s record which would make him a convicted felon. Under state law, official misconduct is classified as a “Class E” felony.
Also, if the diversion is revoked, Presnell could be required to serve his sentence in prison or face additional charges of violation of probation, Street warned.
The charges against Presnell stem from an incident that occurred at the Carter County Detention Center on Aug. 10, 2014, when an inmate reported Presnell had assaulted him.
After the report by the inmate, Presnell was suspended without pay from his duties while an internal investigation was conducted. On Aug. 15, 2014, Presnell was terminated from employment as a result of the internal investigation and the Carter County Sheriff’s Department announced criminal charges were being pursued in relation to the incident.
Investigators alleged that Presnell entered a cell at the jail and assaulted an inmate who reportedly made a sexual comment to Presnell’s girlfriend, who was also a corrections officer at the facility.
A report on the incident by CCSD Sgt. Travis Ludlow also said the inmate reported the female corrections officer initiated the sexual conversation and he responded. The inmate said after the conversation he had with the female officer, Presnell came to his cell asking who had made the statement to his girlfriend.
“He said that (Presnell) left his cell, and returned angry, where (the inmate) met him at the door and admitted to making the statement,” Ludlow said. “Presnell then punched him in the face and began assaulting him.” The inmate sustained a black eye but had no other visible injuries, Ludlow said.
As part of the investigation into the incident, Ludlow said he also viewed security camera footage for that area of the jail.
Security camera footage showed Presnell enter C Block, which was not his assigned work post for the day, and go from cell to cell within the block speaking to inmates before entering the cell which housed the inmate who filed the report, Ludlow said, adding at one point in the video the cell door was opened by another corrections officer and “Presnell can be seen standing over the inmate, who is on the ground.”