WASHINGTON – The United States Department of Justice says the former undersheriff for Le Flore County has pleaded guilty to a criminal civil rights violation for allegedly striking handcuffed suspects not resisting arrest in 2017.

According to court documents, Kendall Morgan, now 44, repeatedly hit two suspects while each was handcuffed behind his back and not resisting arrest on Jan. 25, 2017.

Both suspects were physically injured when Morgan struck them, the indictment states.

“Every citizen is entitled to be treated fairly and law enforcement officers should be models of this very important principle,” said U.S. Attorney Christopher Wilson for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. “The defendant’s actions in this case were illegal, immoral and unethical, and justice demands he face the consequences for his acts.”

Now, the Justice Department says Morgan has pleaded guilty to a criminal civil rights violation for using unlawful force on one of those arrestees.

“This defendant, an experienced law enforcement officer, is being held accountable for unlawfully injuring a handcuffed man who was not resisting arrest and unable to defend himself,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to prosecuting any officer who violates their position and authority by using excessive force without cause.”

Officials say this is not Morgan’s first use of force violation.

A jury awarded a man $4 million in an October 2019 civil suit for an interaction he had with the undersheriff in 2015.

Morgan, who resigned as undersheriff from the Le Flore County Sheriff’s Office in August 2018, was also indicted for hitting a juvenile suspect both before and after the suspect was handcuffed on Dec. 13, 2017.

The juvenile was not resisting arrest and was physically injured when he was hit, the indictment states.

“Mr. Morgan’s actions not only violated the civil rights of his victim, but compromised the public’s trust in the law enforcement system,” said Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Gray of the FBI Oklahoma City Field Office. “The FBI is committed to holding those who abuse their authority accountable and safeguarding the civil liberties of all Americans.”

Morgan faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.

A sentencing hearing has not yet been set.