WASHINGTON - Vernon Wilson, former Chief Deputy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department in Potosi, Mo., was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, for violating the civil rights of four former inmates of the Washington County Jail on four separate occasions, the Justice Department announced today. Wilson was sentenced to 10 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
A jury found Wilson guilty on March 3, 2011, of beating two of the inmates and arranging for the beatings of two other inmates. Wilson was also convicted of two counts of lying to the FBI about his role in two of the attacks. According to evidence presented at trial, on two occasions, Wilson struck inmates repeatedly in the face, banging their heads into a concrete wall. On two other occasions, Wilson orchestrated the beatings of inmates by instigating another inmate, who was known for fighting, to assault them. Both times Wilson rewarded his inmate accomplice for the beatings by giving him cigarettes. As a result of one of these orchestrated beatings, the victim had to be hospitalized for his serious injuries, which included a broken orbital bone.
“Corrections officers are charged with the very important task of maintaining security and discipline in their facilities,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “When corrections officers seek to inflict unjustified punishments on inmates by inciting and inflicting beatings, they threaten the very fabric of our criminal justice system, and they will be prosecuted by the Department of Justice.”
“We are pleased with the sentence for Vernon Wilson because his actions affected more than those he physically abused,” said Special Agent in Charge Dennis L. Baker of the FBI St. Louis Division. “He undermined the public's trust in law enforcement.”
Wilson’s daughter, Valeria Wilson Jackson, 26, a former employee of the Sheriff’s Department who worked under Vernon Wilson’s supervision, previously pleaded guilty on July 14, 2010, to one count of obstruction of justice for lying to the FBI about her role in one of the beatings. Jackson was sentenced on March 10, 2011, to five years of probation, including six months of home confinement.
These cases were both investigated by the St. Louis Division of the FBI and were prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Fara Gold and Patricia A. Sumner of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.