Beckley, WV (WOAY) – Two Southern Regional Jail corrections officers have pleaded guilty to a felony conspiracy charge.
The charge stems from the fatal beating of an inmate in a case that has brought scrutiny to conditions and deaths at the jail.
Officers Andrew Fleshman and Steven Wimmer entered the pleas during separate hearings in the U.S. District Court in Beckley.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, and sentencing is scheduled for February 22.
The officers are accused of conspiring to deny 37-year-old Quantez Burks’ right to due process of law.
Burks was a pretrial detainee at the jail in Beaver who died less than a day after being booked on a wanton endangerment charge in March 2022.
According to court documents, Burks reportedly attempted to push past an officer to leave his housing unit, resulting in him being escorted to an interview room.
Wimmer and Fleshman then assaulted Burks while he was handcuffed and posed no threat.
Prosecutors state Burks was then transported to a prison cell in another housing unit, where he was assaulted again.
The state medical examiner’s office previously stated Burks died of natural causes, prompting the family to seek a private autopsy.
During a news conference last year, The family’s attorney revealed that the second autopsy found the inmate had multiple areas of blunt force trauma on his body.
Governor Jim Justice has stated Homeland Security reported the investigation that he ordered into jail conditions found no evidence of inhumane treatment.
Burks’ mother, Kimberly Burks, told Justice during a town hall meeting earlier this year in Beckley that the state’s findings were “a lie.”
There are several pending lawsuits against state officials and state offices over SRJ’s conditions, which current and former inmates describe as inhumane.