WASHINGTON – A two-count indictment by a federal grand jury in Nashville, Tenn. was unsealed today, charging two former White County corrections officers of violating the civil rights of an inmate at the White County Jail. The announcement was made by Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Jim Vines, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, and My Harrison, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The jury returned the sealed indictment on June 5, 2006, against the Jail’s former Chief of Corrections, Donald R. Wilson, and former supervisory corrections officer, Stan Hawkins. Following the unsealing of the indictments, Hawkins was taken into federal custody immediately and Wilson will surrender himself within the next few days.
The first count of the indictment alleges that in May 2004, defendant Wilson confined a jail inmate in a straightjacket for several days violating the constitutional prohibition against subjecting inmates to cruel and unusual punishment. The second count of the indictment alleges that, on May 6, 2004, defendant Hawkins violated this constitutional prohibition by using a chemical agent against and beating the same inmate.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. Each count of the indictment carries a maximum potential penalty of ten years in prison.
In announcing the indictment, Assistant Attorney General Kim commended the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for their collective efforts in this investigation.
The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as those laws that prohibit the willful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials. The Division has compiled a significant record on criminal civil rights prosecutions in the last five years. Since FY 2001, the Division has convicted 30 percent more defendants of official misconduct crimes.