Stevenson Police Chief Sentenced to Prison for Assaulting and Failing to Protect Arrestee
BIRMINGHAM – A federal judge today sentenced former Stevenson, Ala., Police Chief DANIEL WINTERS, 56, to more than two years in prison for beating an arrestee and for standing by while Winters’ friend beat the arrestee, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
U.S. District Court Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala sentenced Winters to 27 months in prison and ordered him to pay restitution of $12,970 on two counts of violating an individual’s civil rights. A federal jury convicted Winters on those charges in July 2016. Winters must report to prison March 7.
According to evidence presented at trial, on March 22, 2015, Winters and a civilian friend went to a residence to investigate suspicions that property had been stolen from the friend’s business and was located at the residence. Upon arrival, Winters and his friend entered the residence without a search warrant and encountered the victim, identified as D.F. Winters and his friend then began to beat D.F. The beating moved outside where Winters and his friend continued to strike and kick the victim in front of the residence. Over the course of approximately five minutes, Winters not only participated in the beating, but stood by watching his friend beat D.F. and did nothing to stop it. A passing motorist called 911 to report the beating. D.F. was left bloody with wounds to his face, chest and back, and was taken to the jail at the Stevenson Police Department. While at the jail, D.F. began to spit up blood. A jailor requested Winters’ permission to call an ambulance, but Winters refused the request. Eventually, the jailor received permission from another supervisor and D.F. was transported to a hospital where he received medical attention.
“Our society entrusts law enforcement leaders with the profound responsibility of protecting people from harm,” Gupta said. “When law enforcement officials abuse the individuals they swore an oath to protect, they threaten the reputation of their colleagues in the profession who do their jobs honorably and with integrity. This sentencing makes clear that no one, not even a police chief, is above the law.”
“Police department leadership must set the example and uphold the integrity of their departments and meet the rightful expectation of every citizen that law enforcement officers will act in accordance with the laws they have sworn to uphold,” Vance said. “In this case, a police chief criminally abused his badge in order to benefit a friend and inflict violence on an individual in violation of the Constitution. Our society cannot allow that kind of abuse of power and authority to go unpunished.”
The FBI and Alabama’s State Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation. U.S. Attorney’s Office Deputy Chief Laura Hodge and Trial Attorney Samantha Trepel of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case.