Ex-jail officer gets 1 year for assaulting inmates

AP News

10/21/2011 9:06:00 PM - AP News

A former Maricopa County detention officer was sentenced Friday to a year in prison for assaulting two inmates and using the agency's records to get the home address of a former prisoner.

A jail surveillance video showed Kevin Gerster, 35, stepping on the neck of an inmate who was restrained and bent over a table. Another video showed Gerster punching a different inmate in the jaw.

Gerster, who resigned from the sheriff's office after his arrest, was sentenced after previously pleading guilty to two felony assault charges and one misdemeanor charge of unauthorized criminal history access.

The sheriff's office said Gerster looked up the address of an ex-inmate for his friend, whose ex-wife was dating the man. The friend allegedly assaulted the two with a box cutter after getting the address.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said in a written statement that he was concerned by what he saw in the video and made sure it was investigated.

"This was an unfortunate case involving Gerster," Arpaio said. "However, the overwhelming majority of my detention officers are excellent, hardworking and ethical employees."

In the video from November, Gerster is seen stepping on the neck of inmate William Hughes and appears to lean on him. The video also shows the officer later punching Hughes in the back of the head four times and kicking him in the leg once.

Investigators also said they believe Gerster slammed Hughes' head against a wall in his jail cell, although there's no video evidence of that.

The sheriff's office said Hughes didn't require medical treatment and didn't have any apparent neck injuries, although he had some bruising and a cut on his forehead, which investigators believe happened in his cell.

"He's much more compassionate and remorseful," David Michael Cantor, one of Gerster's attorneys, said of his client today. "He has walked a mile in someone else's shoes."

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Bill Brotherton also sentenced Gerster to two years of supervised probation.