A grand jury has indicted a Cumberland County Jail corrections officer on criminal charges for an alleged assault on an incarcerated man last year.

Vinal Thompson, 40, has been on paid administrative leave for more than a year. Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce requested the criminal investigation after he saw video footage of the confrontation between the two men in July 2020. Asked about the indictment, Joyce said Thursday that he has not yet reviewed the reports from that investigation but was not surprised by the charges.

“Based on what I saw on the video, it’s something that we don’t tolerate at the Cumberland County Jail and goes against our mission statement of holding inmates in a safe and secure manner,” Joyce said Thursday.

Thompson is charged with one felony count of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon – in this case, handcuffs. He is also facing two misdemeanor charges of assault and reckless conduct. Thompson declined an interview request last year through a union representative, who did not respond Thursday to an email or a voicemail about the case. The court file did not name a defense lawyer, and the attorney who represented him in a federal lawsuit over the same incident said he is not representing him in the criminal matter.

The file also does not include an affidavit or any other explanation of the charges. The Portland Police Department investigated the case, but a spokesman deferred questions on Thursday to the prosecutor’s office. Androscoggin County District Attorney Andrew Robinson said Thursday he would not answer any questions about the case. His office handled the charging decisions because Thompson is an employee of Cumberland County.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office denied a public records request last year by the Portland Press Herald to release the surveillance footage, citing an exemption for intelligence and investigative information that is not considered public.


But Joyce provided basic details about the incident in a news release last July. He said the altercation took place at 8:20 a.m. on July 7 during the part of the day when people in custody receive their medication under supervision. One inmate “started to create a disturbance.” Thompson approached the man and tried to handcuff him to remove him from the pod, but the man started to back up and held his hands up as if to refuse the handcuffs.

“Officer Thompson immediately began to punch the inmate in the face, and they both began to scuffle,” Joyce said in the news release last year.

The two went down to the floor and two steps to a lower level. Joyce said the man was not handcuffed during the struggle. Another guard intervened, and both the inmate and the guard went to the hospital for medical treatment.

The news release did not name alleged victim. But John Katula said in an interview and in his federal lawsuit that he suffered a broken nose and needed surgery. He later sued Thompson, the sheriff and the county.

“I didn’t swing on him,” Katula, 46, said in an interview last year. “I didn’t do anything like that.”

The parties settled the case earlier this year for $41,000. His civil attorney denied a request for an interview on his behalf at the time but said he was satisfied with that outcome. Katula was held at the time on felony charges for trafficking, importing and possessing methamphetamine. That case is still pending, but he is not listed as being in custody at the Cumberland County Jail.

Joyce said Thompson makes roughly $50,000 per year, and an internal investigation into the incident would begin now that criminal charges have been filed.

“There are steps that we have to take even though it’s been alleged that he committed a crime so that we don’t violate the employee rights as well,” Joyce said.

Thompson will appear in Cumberland County Superior Court for an arraignment on Aug. 5.

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