CATLETTSBURG, Ky. — A former Boyd County, Kentucky, jail deputy accused of abuse in connection with an inmate death that occurred last year has admitted her guilt in exchange for no prison time.
Alicia Beller, of Putnam County, West Virginia, pleaded guilty to wanton endangerment in the first degree, a class D felony, Friday in Boyd County Circuit Court. Her guilty plea came after the death of Michael Moore, 40, who was found dead Nov. 29, 2018, in the jail's restraint chair.
Also charged in the case are Zackary Messer, of Ashland; Brad Roberts, of Westwood, Kentucky; Colton Griffith, of Flatwoods, Kentucky; and Jeremy Mattox, of Grayson, Kentucky, who are all charged with first-degree manslaughter.
Beller’s plea deal calls for a five-year prison sentence, which was diverted for five years in exchange for Beller to provide a sworn statement to the Kentucky State Police about the case and to testify truthfully in any state or federal proceeding against her co-defendants. She also will not be able to work in corrections for the diversion period.
Commonwealth's Attorney Rhonda Copley said the agreement was reached with only Beller because she did not touch the victim.
“She did not participate in any of the other acts of abuse,” she said. “(She) was in the control room and the amendment to the charge is appropriate based on her involvement in the incident.”
The same deal has not been offered to her co-defendants, Copley added.
“We have reviewed the file for each defendant independently to determine their involvement in the incident,” she said.
Moore, who was arrested for public intoxication, had been jailed for 36 hours before his death. Moore had arrived to the jail highly intoxicated, which led to his confinement in the restraint chair. An autopsy could not rule out criminal activity as a contributing factor to his death.
During a state police investigation, troopers found the five charged had allegedly intentionally abused Moore, or knowingly permitted the abuse prior to his death.
Boyd County Jailer Joe Burchett resigned in early December after Moore and another inmate, Charles Shaun Finley, 36, died within four days of each other. Finley had been jailed for three weeks before his death.
Burchett served as jailer for 16 years and was replaced by county jailer-elect William Hensley, who was asked to fill the position a month before his term was to start.
There had been a number of problems at the jail in the past two years, including a riot and escapes. The State Department of Corrections removed dozens of prisoners from the jail earlier this year. However, Hensley said in early March that since Dec. 3, when he took over, the jail has had zero uses of tasers, zero uses of fist strikes, one use of pepper spray and two uses of the restraint chair, which were both for minimal time and under the recommendation of mental health providers to stop individuals from self-harming.
Another plea in the case is scheduled in Boyd County Circuit Court Friday at 11 a.m.
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.