SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A sergeant at Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mt. Sterling, Ill., Willie Hedden, today entered pleas of guilty to charges related to his role in the May 2018 assault of an inmate who died as a result of the injuries sustained in the assault. Hedden entered his pleas via videoconference before U.S. District Judge Richard Mills. Sentencing is scheduled on July 21, 2021.
Central District of Illinois Acting U.S. Attorney Douglas J. Quivey; FBI-Springfield Division Special Agent in Charge Sean M. Cox; and, Illinois State Police Director Brendan F. Kelly made the announcement.
Hedden, 42, of Mt. Sterling, Ill., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deprive civil rights and deprivation of civil rights under color of law resulting in bodily injury and death for his participation in the May 17, 2018, assault of an inmate who was restrained and handcuffed behind his back and posed no physical threat to Hedden or others. The victim, identified as Larry Earvin, 65, of Chicago, suffered multiple broken ribs, a punctured colon, and other serious internal injuries, and died in June 2018. The assault occurred as Earvin was forcibly escorted from his residential unit at the prison to a separate, segregated housing unit.
In addition, Hedden pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in misleading conduct. Hedden admitted that he filed falsified incident reports with the prison that omitted reference to the assault and noted that Earvin was delivered to staff in the segregation housing unit “without further incident,” other than resisting the escort and refusing to walk. Further, Hedden admitted that he misled agents of the Illinois State Police by denying any knowledge of the assault, that he participated in and witnessed, and that he persuaded a friend, a fellow prison employee, to delete a text message Hedden sent following the assault in which Hedden admitted his involvement in the assault on Earvin.
This afternoon, the court held a status hearing by videoconference for co-defendants Todd Sheffler, 52, of Mendon, Ill., and Alex Banta, 29, of Quincy, Ill. The court scheduled trial for Sheffler and Banta on June 28, 2021. Sheffler and Banta are each charged with conspiracy to deprive civil rights and deprivation of civil rights under color of law resulting in bodily injury and death, conspiracy to engage in misleading conduct, and two counts of obstruction of justice.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy A. Bass represents the government in the prosecution. The charges were investigated by agents of the FBI-Springfield Division and the Illinois State Police Division of Internal Investigation with the cooperation of the Illinois Department of Corrections.
The statutory sentence for both conspiracy to deprive civil rights and deprivation of civil rights under color of law resulting in bodily injury and death is any term of imprisonment up to life. For each count of conspiracy to engage in misleading conduct and obstruction, the maximum statutory penalty is up to 20 years in prison.
Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; each defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.