A Black man who was incarcerated at the Kennebec County Correctional Facility said a guard with an alleged history of racist and violent statements assaulted him at the jail last year.

The plaintiff, Jonathan Afanador, made those claims in a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Bangor. He called Officer Nathan Willhoite “a known bad apple” and said the county was aware of reports about comments Willhoite made in the past to his coworkers.

“Kennebec County failed to take appropriate remedial action and fire Willhoite to avoid future instances of racist and violent behavior after receiving these warnings,” the complaint states.

Attorney Matthew Morgan, who is representing Afanador, said Tuesday that he has seen a video of the incident from the jail’s security cameras. He described it as “shocking and disappointing.”

“If something like this happened once at the jail, it could happen again,” Morgan said.

Kennebec County Sheriff Ken Mason said Tuesday he could not comment on any pending litigation. He also said he could not answer any specific questions about Willhoite, including how long he has worked as a correctional officer.


Willhoite could not be reached Tuesday to respond to the accusations.

County Administrator Robert Devlin also said he could not comment on the allegations in the complaint. The county is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The Portland Press Herald filed a public records request Tuesday for documents related to Willhoite’s employment.

The lawsuit centers on an incident on August 18, 2019. The complaint says Afanador was awaiting trial at the jail at that time, and Willhoite and another officer removed him from his cell during a “full floor shakedown.” The other officer directed a racial slur at Afanador in front of Willhoite. The complaint identifies Afanador as Black but does not indicate the race of either guard.

“This was not the first time Afanador experienced the use of racial slurs at KCCF,” the complaint states.

The complaint says Afanador was then standing against a wall and reading a book when Willhoite grabbed his arm and pepper sprayed him directly in the face. Willhoite then spun Afanador around, slammed his chest against a table and pinned his arm behind him. The complaint says Afanador was placed in isolation and did not receive medical attention until the next day.

The lawsuit also says Willhoite acted “despite the absence of any physical danger and the presence of multiple other corrections officers.”


Willhoite was among those mentioned in another federal lawsuit against Kennebec County. Three women who previously worked as jail guards sued their former employer in 2016, claiming they were illegally fired because of their gender, sexual orientation, religion and physical disability. Court records indicate the parties settled two of the three lawsuits last year.

Willhoite was not named as a defendant in those cases, but his name came up in a 2018 affidavit by one of the plaintiffs. She recounted racist or violent comments Willhoite made during conversations in 2014. Once, when he was looking for an inmate, she said he told her, “All Black people look alike.” On another occasion, she heard him say that an inmate needed “to be shot and put in a foreign jail.” Her other reports included Willhoite bragging about slamming an inmate into a wall and having inappropriate conversations about hurting animals while at work. The complaint filed Monday included multiple examples from that affidavit.

“Kennebec County was put on notice that Corrections Officer Willhoite made racist and violent statements about and towards inmates,” the complaint states.

Afanador, 25, is no longer listed as an inmate at the Kennebec County Correctional Facility. A Maine Department of Corrections database indicates that he was sentenced in May to four-and-a-half years in prison for two counts of aggravated drug trafficking.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.