KSP trooper indicted over excessive force accusation

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Kentucky State Police cruiser vehicle.

Kentucky State Police cruiser vehicle.

Lexington Herald-Leader

A Kentucky State Police trooper from Laurel County is facing federal charges after he allegedly beat someone who was being arrested and then conspired with others to cover up the use of force, according to federal prosecutors.

A federal grand jury in London returned the indictment charging Michael L. Howell, 32, with conspiracy to obstruct a criminal investigation and for engaging in misleading conduct with the intent to prevent communication of information to federal law enforcement relating to the commission or possible commission of a federal offense, according to a release from the Department of Justice.

The indictment alleges that Howell, along with another KSP trooper, conspired with others to conceal the true nature of force used by KSP troopers, and the circumstances under which they used that force, to detain someone who was being arrested.

The indictment states Howell and the others failed to disclose the use of force by developing a fictitious story about what happened, which matched “the closest thing to what the video would show,” in order to conceal the true events and mislead his investigating supervisor.

According to court documents, Howell and four other troopers beat and attacked a man who was subdued. The documents state the victim was attacked so violently his orbital bone was fractured, and Howell broke his hand.

“The Defendant Troopers will contend that, during the beating, they only used the force necessary to subdue (the victim). However, eyewitness testimony will confirm that the Defendant Troopers continued to beat (the victim) long after (the victim) was subdued,” the document states.

The victim’s wife and two children were nearby when the alleged beating occurred, court records state.

“After (the victim) was arrested, the Defendant Troopers engaged with (the victim’s wife) and the two children, swearing at them, threatening to have the children removed from the home, and physically accosting them. The Defendant Troopers used fear and intimidation to keep the children at bay after they had just seen their father beaten and attacked.

“In that process, the phone was taken from (the victim’s wife) and confiscated by Defendant Howell,” records state.

Court documents also discuss the efforts by Howell and other troopers to illegally obtain and search the victim’s phone after he was arrested.

Carlton S. Shier, IV, United States attorney for the eastern half of Kentucky, and Jodi Cohen, special agent in charge of the FBI Louisville Field Office, announced the indictment.

The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by the FBI. The indictment was presented to the grand jury by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zachary Dembo and Emily Greenfield.

A date for Howell to appear in court is scheduled for July 8 at 1:30 p.m. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each charge if he’s convicted, but any sentence would be handed down by a judge after considering the circumstances of the case and federal sentencing guidelines.

This indictment is part of an ongoing investigation.

Taylor Six is the criminal justice reporter at the Herald-Leader. She was born and raised in Lexington attending Lafayette High School. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 2018 with a degree in journalism. She previously worked as the government reporter for the Richmond Register.

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