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Sergeant at Van Zandt county jail pleads guilty to federal civil rights offense for assaulting detainee

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David Yager, 29, pleaded guilty today in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas to violating a detainee’s civil rights by using excessive force against him. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston for the Eastern District of Texas; Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division; and Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno of the FBI Dallas Field Division made the announcement.

During the plea hearing, Yager admitted that on or about Feb. 28, 2021, while he was acting as a sergeant in the jail at the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office, he repeatedly punched a restrained detainee in the chest with a taser, which he also deployed on the detainee. Yager admitted that the detainee was confined to a restraint chair at the time. Yager also admitted that his acts caused bodily injury to the detainee, and that he used force on the detainee despite knowing that there was no legitimate, law enforcement need to use force. Yager admitted that he hit the detainee out of anger.

“Detention officers in correctional settings, especially those in leadership positions, must be held accountable when they violently assault detainees who are in their custody,” said Assistant Attorney General Clarke. “At the time of this assault, the detainee was locked into a restraint chair. When officials inside our jails and prisons betray the great trust placed in them by unlawfully assaulting people in their custody, the Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute them and hold them accountable.”

“Law enforcement officers who violate the law erode confidence in the rule that we hold so dear to our democratic way of life,” said U.S. Attorney Featherston. “Specifically, those officials who violate a citizen’s civil rights will be held accountable for their improper violent actions. We must expect and require officers to act professionally. Simply put, the failure to do so will not be tolerated.”

“The FBI is committed to investigating violations of civil rights, to include the use of excessive force in jails and prisons,” said Assistant Director Quesada. “This case serves as a reminder that any officer who violates the civil rights of detainees will be held accountable.”

With his guilty plea and pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement, the defendant faces a 42-month prison sentence.

A sentencing date will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

This case was investigated by the FBI Dallas Field Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracey Batson for the Eastern District of Texas and Trial Attorneys Kathryn E. Gilbert and Matthew Tannenbaum of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

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