Former Missouri County Chief Deputy Charged with Civil Rights Violations
WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury has charged Vernon Wilson, former Chief Deputy of the Washington County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, in a six-count indictment stemming from four separate incidents in which Wilson allegedly assaulted inmates or caused the assault of inmates in the Washington County Jail in the summer and fall of 2005, the Justice Department today announced. The indictment charges Wilson with felony civil rights violations and with making false statements to the F BI.
According to the indictment, on July 27, 2005, Wilson caused an inmate, identified in the indictment by the initials J.T., to be assaulted when he placed J.T. in a cellblock that housed an inmate whom Wilson knew was dangerous and would likely assault J.T. On Aug. 14, 2005, Wilson repeatedly slapped another inmate, identified in the indictment by the initials J.G., causing J.G.’s head to hit a concrete wall, according to the indictment. The indictment also alleges that on Sept. 29, 2005, Wilson caused an inmate, identified in the indictment by the initials G.G., to be assaulted when he allowed G.G. to remain in a cellblock that housed the same inmate who had assaulted J.T. several weeks before. The indictment further alleges that Wilson repeatedly slapped an inmate, identified in the indictment by the initials W.H., causing W.H.’s head to hit a concrete wall. The indictment also alleges that the assaults resulted in bodily injury to all four inmates.
The indictment also alleges that Wilson lied to a special agent of the FBI.
"Law enforcement officers are the first line of defense for the U.S. Constitution," said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez. "The Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Department of Justice will aggressively prosecute any person who abuses his or her official authority by deliberately subjecting persons in his or her custody to physical assaults."
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
If convicted, Wilson faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison for the civil rights charges and 10 years in prison for the false statement charges.
On July 14, 2010, Wilson’s daughter, Valeria Wilson Jackson, a former corrections officer at Washington County Jail, who worked under her father at the time of these alleged offenses, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to one count of obstruction of justice for intentionally misleading the FBI about her role in one of the assaults at the jail.
This case is being investigated by the FBI’s St. Louis office and is being prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Trial Attorneys Patricia Sumner and Fara Gold.