Former Tennessee County Official Indicted for Kidnapping and Sexual Assault

2 years ago

Today, the Justice Department announced the unsealing of a nine-count indictment charging Michael Harvel, 59, of Crossville, Tennessee, with civil rights violations for kidnapping and sexually assaulting women that he supervised during his tenure as the Cumberland County, Tennessee, Solid Waste Director. FBI agents arrested Harvel at his home earlier today, and he will appear before a U.S. Magistrate Judge later this afternoon.

According to the indictment, Harvel’s official duties as the former Solid Waste Director included supervising women who served their court-ordered community service time or worked as paid county employees. The indictment alleges that, from 2015 to 2018, Harvel sexually assaulted seven women under his supervision. Two counts charge that Harvel kidnapped and sexually assaulted women he supervised, and a third count charges him with committing aggravated sexual abuse by forcibly raping a woman in a dark office. The indictment alleges several other incidents of sexual assault, including Harvel fondling the breasts and genitals of women against their will.

If convicted, Harvel faces a maximum sentence of up to life in prison.

This case is being investigated by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Beth Myers for the Middle District of Tennesee and Trial Attorney Michael J. Songer of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case. 

In March, in a separate civil action, the Department of Justice settled a sexual harassment lawsuit against Cumberland County for $1.1 million. The lawsuit alleged, among other things, that Cumberland County failed to take adequate precautions to prevent Harvel, as the director of the county’s Solid Waste Department, from sexually harassing women he supervised. According to the complaint, Harvel regularly subjected the women to unwanted sexual contact, including kissing and groping; unwelcome sexual advances, including propositioning the women for sexual favors; and offensive sexual remarks about their bodies and sex acts.

An indictment is merely an accusation. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  

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