A former captain at a Batesville youth lockup who is serving seven years for pepper-spraying youths and then "letting them cook," in violation of their civil rights, lost her request Thursday to be released from federal prison over fears of catching the coronavirus.
Peggy Kendrick, 46, who is serving her sentence at a federal medical center in Lexington, Ky., filed a pro-se motion Wednesday asking U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. in Little Rock to grant her request for compassionate release, to allow her to serve the remainder of her sentence at home.
Moody sentenced Kendrick a little over a year ago, on April 18, 2019, to seven years in federal prison, where parole is unavailable, after she pleaded guilty two years earlier to charges of conspiracy to violate youths' civil rights, depriving youths of their civil rights under color of law and obstruction of justice.
At her sentencing hearing and at a jury trial for some of her employees that preceded her sentencing, several youths who endured abuse at the White River Regional Juvenile Detention Facility testified, as did some of the former jailers under Kendrick's supervision. They described youths being pepper-sprayed for minor infractions and then, at Kendrick's direction, being left to "cook" in locked cells, while the irritant remained on their skin, until she thought they were properly punished.
The county-run facility housed up to 75 youths between the ages of 5 and 21 who had either been adjudicated delinquent or were in state custody on a Family in Need of Services petition, which was intended to keep them safe from harm.
Among those being held on a Family in Need of Services petition was a petite girl, age 16 at the time of her 2013 stay at the facility, whose spraying by Kendrick was captured on a jail video camera. The girl was sprayed for writing a profane message on the wall of her cell in toothpaste.
When Moody asked Kendrick why she did it, she replied, "That's just the way I was trained."
Moody imposed a sentence 13 months longer than that recommended by federal sentencing guidelines, saying, "I find it incredible that she thought she was trained to do this." He also noted her efforts to cover up her actions by falsifying paperwork, and noted that she, unlike jailers she supervised, didn't have to dish out the abuse under fear of losing her job, since she was the one in charge.
"I fully an wholeheartedly have repented of my wrong doings," Kendrick wrote in her petition for relief. "I am very remorcefull and sincerely appologize to the victims, my family, the Court and my co-workers for my behavior and actions."
Kendrick said she has several "sevire" medical issues that put her at high risk of catching the virus, which she said "is on this compound in both staff and inmates." She identified her medical issues as diabetes, fatty liver syndrome, having an enlarged spleen, being in the early stages of glaucoma and having "several compressed disk in my neck and back."
She included copies of certificates she has earned while in prison for completing courses in the Bible, nutrition, business and finance, bookkeeping and Spanish, as well as an "assert yourself" course, a marriage and relationship course, and a parenting program.
In an order issued Thursday, Moody noted that Kendrick's scheduled release date is April 3, 2025.
He said she "did not attempt to pursue administrative remedies before seeking relief at the Court," as she is required to do, and that he lacks authority to modify her sentence.
A 2018 law known as the First Step Act allows federal judges to modify a term of imprisonment only upon the request of the federal Bureau of Prisons, at the request of the defendant after the defendant has fully exhausted all administrative appeals of the bureau's denial or for "extraordinary and compelling reasons" that are consistent with policy statements of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
Kendrick cited her health conditions as "extraordinary and compelling reasons" for her release.
Metro on 05/15/2020