Former jail supervisor convicted of assaults
Saturday, March 5, 2011
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A former supervisor of a Missouri jail will likely go behind bars himself for assaulting two inmates and directing violent inmates to attack two others.
Former Washington County chief jailer Vernon G. Wilson, 57, was convicted Thursday in U.S. District Court of violating the civil rights of the four men. He was also convicted of two counts of lying to the FBI about his role in the attacks. Sentencing will be June 1, and Wilson could face up to 10 years in prison on the civil rights charges and five years on the charges of lying to the FBI.
“When Vernon Wilson goes to prison, he should not experience the same vulnerability he made his victims feel,” said Dennis Baker, special agent in charge of the FBI office in St. Louis. “Fortunately, the vast majority of the men and women who swore to uphold the law are not like him.”
Wilson’s attorney, Burton Shostak, said he was disappointed by the jury’s ruling. He said a decision on whether to appeal has not been made.
Evidence at the trial indicated that on two occasions in 2005, Wilson repeatedly struck inmates in the face, the force of his attacks so strong the inmates banged their heads into a concrete wall at the jail in Potosi, about 60 miles southwest of St. Louis.
On two other occasions that same year, Wilson placed non-violent inmates in a cell with violent inmates, including a murder suspect. Federal prosecutors said Wilson paid the violent inmates with cigarettes to attack the two inmates he considered troublemakers.
One of those inmates, Gary Gieselman, had been arrested on a bad check charge and was taken to the jail for what was expected to be a brief stay. He told The Associated Press that he and Wilson’s daughter, who was also a jailer, exchanged words that her father overheard.
Gieselman was placed in a section of the jail referred to as the “rough tank,” where he was attacked, suffering several broken bones in his face, and broken teeth. He was taken to a hospital, unconscious. He said the facial damage is permanent.
“The jury’s verdict confirms that my civil rights were violated,” Gieselman said in an e-mail on Friday. “While Vernon Wilson will face justice, I am still concerned that the practice of beating prisoners was allowed to continue for so long at the Washington County Jail. I do not understand why so many employees and officials stood by silently for so long.”
Gieselman filed a civil lawsuit in September naming Wilson, Wilson’s daughter, Valeria Wilson Jackson, Washington County and the inmates who attacked him.
A phone message seeking comment from Washington County Sheriff Andy Skiles was not returned. Skiles’ office oversees the jail, but he was not sheriff in 2005 when the crimes occurred. The former sheriff, Kevin Shroeder, was not accused of wrongdoing.
Jackson, 26, pleaded guilty in July to one count of obstruction of justice for lying to the FBI about her role in the Gieselman beating. She is awaiting sentencing.