Transport officer held in assault on inmate in Arkansas; agent suspects more than 100 victims

A private prisoner transport officer from California who is suspected of sexually assaulting more than 100 women while transporting inmates across the country over the past 15 years was detained Tuesday in Little Rock.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Beth Deere ordered Eric Scott Kindley to remain in federal custody until his trial on charges of deprivation of rights and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, in which he is accused of assaulting a shackled woman on Jan. 28, 2017, on a deserted road outside Russellville.

An FBI agent who is based in Phoenix testified Tuesday that the unregulated transport officer, who has operated prisoner transport businesses since 2002, picked up a 27-year-old woman from a jail in Shelby County, Ala., that day to deliver her to a jail in Apache County, Ariz., and made an unexpected stop on a dark, winding road in Pope County. There, the FBI agent said, Kindley let the woman out of the van to urinate, unshackling one of her hands but leaving her legs shackled together.

He then threw her against the side of the van and reached inside her panties, scratching her so hard that his fingernails tore the fabric, the agent said.

When Kindley demanded that the woman perform a sex act on him, "she felt like she either had to fight or was going to die," Special Agent Kyle Roberts told the judge.

He said that when she screamed no, coyotes and other animals started howling, and the transport officer ordered her back in the van -- but showed her his gun and told her, "It only takes one bullet to the head."

Roberts said he was later able to verify, through the global positioning system on Kindley's smartphone, that he was in the isolated area for about 45 minutes before he arrived at the Russellville jail.

Though Kindley had called ahead to say his prisoner needed a bathroom stop, audio recordings show he told jailers when he arrived that he had gotten lost.

He later made an overnight stop at a jail in Oklahoma, but only after calling several other jails first and making sure he took his prisoner to a jail where she would have to take a shower, Roberts said.

He said the woman didn't report Kindley to jailers in Russellville or Oklahoma because Kindley told her he was a U.S. marshal and had a good relationship with other law enforcement officers.

But once the woman arrived in the jail in Arizona, she was housed with a woman whom Kindley had transported there several days earlier from California and had raped in a remote area of the desert, the agent testified.

He said the woman who had been raped was also afraid to report it to law enforcement officers but told another female inmate.

That inmate was from the area and told a jail employee she knew, and that led to a deputy alerting the FBI.

Since then, Roberts testified, he has found evidence of attacks on at least 13 other women, each of whom was transported alone in Kindley's personal Dodge Grand Caravan. Roberts said he so far has compiled eight bankers' boxes full of information, and believes "there could be 100, maybe more," victims.

According to documents filed by attorneys in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, two of Kindley's former employees, Albert Long and William Cassidy, have been separately convicted of federal crimes related to sexually assaulting female inmates they transported while working for him.

Roberts said that in interviews with the FBI, both men said Kindley often bragged about having sex with female inmates and acknowledged that "it was understood among the transport officers that they could do as they wanted to the females during transport, so long as the authorities do not find out."

The FBI agent testified that a common thread among all the victims discovered to date is that Kindley told them, "What happens in the van stays in the van."

He said the women also described Kindley as "screening" them at the beginning of the trip by asking increasingly personal questions that eventually became explicit, and eventually bragging about other women he had transported and raped, all while reminding them he carried a gun.

The victim in the Arkansas case told authorities that Kindley described transporting several male inmates and one female inmate together and bragged that they all "played with her, but she didn't mind because she had been in jail."

Kindley was arrested June 1, a day after he signed up as an Uber driver and his smartphone, which agents were monitoring, showed him conducting searches about Uber drivers having sex with passengers, Roberts testified.


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Metro on 02/28/2018

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