Former deputy convicted of violated civil rights, obstruction of justice

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A former sheriff's deputy in central Kentucky has been convicted in federal court of violating the civil rights of people he arrested by using unnecessary force and obstructing justice by trying to cover up his actions, the Justice Department said.

A jury in Lexington handed down the verdict for Tanner Abbott, 31, who was a Boyle County sheriff’s deputy at the time, the federal agency said Tuesday in a statement.

According to evidence presented during the trial, Abbott punched a driver in the face during a traffic stop in January 2021 because the man asked to speak to his supervisor, and then pulled the man out of the car and struck him several more times, the statement said. When a passenger pleaded with Abbott to stop, the deputy struck the passenger in the face with an elbow and broke his glasses.

The following month, Abbott arrested the passenger of a car and punched him in the face without justification, and conspired with another officer to write a report saying the man had approached Abbott aggressively before being struck, the statement said.

The deputy also searched a hotel room without a warrant that March and then wrote a report falsely saying the guest had given consent, the agency said.

And that April, Abbott punched a handcuffed man in the face when he posed no threat following a vehicle pursuit, authorities said.

“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. “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."

Abbott was convicted of four counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, one count of conspiracy and one count of falsification of records. He was found not guilty of one count of deprivation of rights under color of law.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 7. He faces up to 10 years in prison on each civil rights charge, up to 20 years on the falsification of records charge and up to 5 years on a conspiracy charge.