NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A former Cumberland County Solid Waste Director has been convicted of nine counts of civil rights violations, including kidnapping and sexually assaulting women that he supervised.
Michael Harvel, 61, of Crossville, was convicted by a federal jury following an eight-day trial, the United States Attorney’s Office announced Friday. Harvel was found guilty of four counts of kidnapping and sexual assault.
He was also convicted on three counts of aggravated sexual abuse — including one for “forcibly raping a woman in an office at a county facility”— and on charges for incidents in which he “fondled the breasts and genitals of women against their will,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The trial included testimony from 13 women who spoke about Harvel’s abuse during his time as the county’s solid waste director.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Harvel was initially indicted in July 2021 for civil rights violations, and a superseding indictment returned in November 2021 charged him with additional civil rights violations which occurred between 2014 and 2018.
Harvel’s official duties included supervising workers at the Cumberland County Recycling Center and at other satellite locations and county landfills, where he supervised dozens of women who served their court-ordered community service time or worked as paid employees.
“The defendant raped and assaulted women who were in extremely vulnerable positions,” said U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin. “Those in positions of authority cannot abuse their positions with impunity, and we look forward to seeking a prison sentence for Mr. Harvel that reflects the seriousness of this offense. I commend the victims, investigators, and the prosecution team for holding Mr. Harvel accountable for his crimes and for obtaining justice in this matter.”
In 2021, in a separate civil action, the U.S. 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, and other unwelcome sexual advances.
“The defendant abused his power as a public official in order to sexually assault women under his supervision at a county facility,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Civil Rights Division. “This guilty verdict was made possible by the 13 brave women who testified about the defendant’s abuse, and by the tireless work of the federal investigators and prosecutors who pursued justice in this matter. The Justice Department will continue working hard to protect women from exploitation by government officials who wield authority over them.”
Harvel faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set by the court.