A Correctional Officer in Mt. Sterling has plead guilty in an assault that resulted in the death of an Inmate at the Western Illinois Correctional Center.
42 year old Willie Hedden, a sergeant at the facility, has 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. According to a release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of Illinois, Hedden entered his pleas via video conference before U.S. District Judge Richard Mills. Sentencing is scheduled on July 21, 2021.
Hedden, 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 65 year old Larry Earvin, 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.
According to the release, the court held a status hearing by videoconference this afternoon 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.
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.