SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A former Illinois prison guard could face life in prison after a jury convicted him Monday of violating the civil rights of a 65-year-old inmate who died after correctional officers beat him in a lockup more than four years ago.
The jury of six men and six women deliberated about three hours before returning guilty verdicts on five counts against ex-correctional Lt. Todd Sheffler, 54, of Mendon.
Sheffler is the second ex-guard convicted in the death of Larry Earvin in May 2018. A separate jury convicted Alex Banta, 30, of similar charges in April. That jury could not reach a verdict on Sheffler, so the government tried him again.
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“The defense made a statement about the long, cruel arm of government,” assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene Miller said in his closing statement. “Todd Sheffler violated his training, violated the U.S. Constitution and allowed, participated in and covered up the brutal beating of a 65-year-old man, defenseless, a fellow citizen, handcuffed behind his back and lying on the cold, hard concrete floor. He was the long, cruel arm of government.”
Earvin was serving a sentence for theft and was eligible for parole in four months when he disobeyed a guard’s order to return to his cell at Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mount Sterling, 249 miles (400 kilometers) southwest of Chicago.
An officer-in-distress call summoned dozens of guards to Earvin’s housing unit, and Banta was among those who began the escort to disciplinary segregation. Sheffler joined en route, and testimony indicated that the two were joined by former correctional Sgt. Willie Hedden in punching, kicking and stomping on Earvin in the vestibule of the segregation unit, where there are no security cameras.
Hedden, indicted on the same civil rights and conspiracy charges, testified for the government in hopes of a reduced sentence.
Sheffler’s defense attorneys attempted to convince the jury that the punches and kicks Earvin sustained in the housing unit — before Sheffler joined the escort — could have caused his death.