Ex-Police Officer Cory Evans Sentenced for Striking Kneeling Protester

A former Louisville Metro Police officer who struck an unarmed, kneeling protester with a riot stick has been sentenced to two years in prison for using excessive force.

Cory Evans, 34, previously pleaded guilty to deprivation of rights under color of law for the assault that took place during unrest prompted by the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2020.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings sentenced Evans on Tuesday to two years' imprisonment and two years' supervised release.

Evans had been working as part of the Louisville Metro Police Department's Special Response Team on May 31, 2020, when he followed a group of people around downtown Louisville to make arrests for unlawful assembly and violations of curfew, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.

One protester surrendered for arrest by "getting on his knees and placing his hands in the air," the release said.

"While that person was kneeling in this position, Evans struck him in the back of the head with a riot stick, which created a wound on the back of the kneeling victim's head."

Evans "abused his authority by violently retaliating against a surrendering arrestee who had been exercising his First Amendment rights" during a demonstration, Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said in a statement.

"The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable officers who violate their oath and the Constitution."

The protester, Marty Chester, urged the judge to show Evans "the same lack of mercy he showed me as I bled out" during Tuesday's sentencing hearing, the Courier Journal reported.

Chester said he had suffered a gash on his head, needed three staples and lost his hearing for a week, and has also experienced anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder since the assault. "You have stolen my security, Mr. Evans," he said.

Evans apologized to Chester during the hearing and said he was "embarrassed" by what he had done, the newspaper reported. "I was tired. I was broken. I was restless," he said.

Evans added that he had "lost everything," including his potential police and military pensions and benefits. "The only thing I have left is my family," he said.

He also apologized for dragging the police department's name "through the mud." He resigned in July 2021, days after being charged.

Evans' attorney Brian Butler had argued that prosecutors' call for him to be jailed for four years was "draconian" and cited his client's past acts of heroism while working for the police department and while deployed to Afghanistan.

He also said Chester had been with a group of people who were reportedly starting fires and throwing bricks.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Gregory said Chester was not on trial and no officer said they saw Chester throw bricks or start fires. He was arrested on the night in question, but the charge was dismissed and expunged, Gregory added.

The judge decided that four years was excessive, but that Butler's request for probation in lieu of prison was not appropriate.

As well as two years in prison, Evans will also have to pay $1,962.85 in restitution, the Courier Journal reported.

Butler told Newsweek on Wednesday: "Cory will be forever disappointed that the government that he served in combat rejected his request to have his case referred to Veteran's Court and sought a draconian sentence. We are thankful that the court rejected the government's sentencing recommendation.

"He took full responsibility for his split-second reaction."

The attorney added that Evans was a combat veteran who had saved at least four lives as a Louisville police officer, and the incident had taken place at a time when Louisville officers "were shot at nightly."

He said: "They had Molotov cocktails thrown at them. They were pummeled with rocks, bricks, bottles of urine and bottles of rancid milk."

Update 02/02/22, 11 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comments from Cory Evans' attorney Brian Butler.

Protesters continue to gather after nightfall
Protesters continue to gather after nightfall despite a curfew being put in place on May 30, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. Brett Carlsen/Getty Images