Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputy Indicted for Using Excessive Force and Filing False Report
A federal grand jury in West Palm Beach, Florida, returned a two-count indictment charging Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputy William D. Wheeler, 46, with unlawfully assaulting a man at the Palm Beach County Detention Center on Oct. 9, 2013, and filing a false report on the incident, announced U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division and Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI.
According to the allegations contained in court documents, on or about Oct. 9, 2013, Wheeler was employed as a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Deputy and was assigned to the Corrections Division (PBSO) West Detention Center located in Belle Glade, Florida. As part of his duties, the complaint alleges that Wheeler escorted an inmate, J.S., to the medical area of the facility where he was seated in a chair with his hands restrained behind his back with handcuffs. The complaint alleges that J.S. did not comply with the treating nurse’s attempt to review his medical bracelet. The complaint further alleges that as the defendant lifted the inmate’s arm to read the medical bracelet, the inmate pulled his arm away. The complaint alleges that Wheeler then placed his hands around the inmate’s neck, struck the inmate’s head against the wall and pulled the inmate to the floor. The complaint further alleges that the defendant then struck the inmate in the face with his knee. The inmate sustained facial injuries as a result of the incident, which was allegedly captured on a video recording.
According to the complaint, the defendant prepared an incident report regarding the use of force. The complaint further alleges that the defendant was later questioned regarding the incident and claimed to have been physically assaulted by the inmate. The complaint alleges that the defendant’s version of the events is not corroborated by the video footage.
United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Law enforcement officers and public servants are not above the law, but are held to the highest standard. They must protect the civil rights of the individuals they are sworn to protect and monitor. Those individuals who violate our civil liberties and falsify documents to conceal their criminal conduct will be held accountable within the justice system.”
Wheeler is scheduled to be arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge James D. Hopkins on April 15, 2015.
If convicted, Wheeler faces a maximum punishment of 30 years in prison.
The Department of Justice commends the investigative efforts of the West Palm Beach Resident Agency of the FBI, Ric Bradshaw of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and State Attorney Dave Aronberg of the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Rhee Osborne of the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorney D.W. Tunnage of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
Wheeler, William D. Indictment (PDF)