BY DAVID J. NEAL UPDATED MARCH 03, 2022 7:39 AM
Three Florida Department of Corrections officers will get the inside view of a prison cell after their sentencing for the beating of a handcuffed inmate.
ERIC ZAMORA THE SACRAMENTO BEE
At the end of a three-man beating, a Florida prison guard kicked an inmate in the head and face 15 times, spat on him and called him the n-word at Hamilton Correctional Institution. In the end, Florida Department of Corrections Sgt. Coty Wiltgen, who led that final assault on an inmate known as C.S., got the longest federal prison sentence of the three men involved in the March 3, 2020, beating that left the inmate with a deformed face, bleeding from the ears, and a left eye “grossly swollen shut.”
The 32-year-old from Live Oak got three years and a month followed by two years of supervised release. Fellow Sgt. Ethan Burkett got two years, seven months, then one year of supervised release. Burkett’s fellow 25-year-old from Valdosta, Georgia, Officer William Shackelford, got two years, one month followed by one year of supervised release.
Each pleaded guilty in Jacksonville federal court to depriving inmate C.S. of his civil rights. What follows comes from their admission of facts with their guilty pleas:
THE BEATING OF AN INMATE The three guards went into Hamilton Correctional Institution Annex’s G-Dorm to search inmate cells. An inmate at the prison in Jasper broke off and ran through the dorm. Burkett gave chase through the common area. “As Burkett attempted to pass C.S., C.S. pushed Burkett off his path,” Burkett’s admission says. “In response, [Wiltgen] used (pepper) spray on C.S. toward his back. As C.S. was being sprayed, he walked calmly away from [Wiltgen] and laid down on the floor, showing no signs of resistance.” Wiltgen handcuffed C.S. Wiltgen and Shackelford walked a compliant C.S. out of the dorm — and out of camera view. “They passed other officers, with Sgt. Wiltgen telling them they “got it” as they passed, waving off the officers from joining the escort,” Wiltgen’s admission says. The admissions of facts say C.S. wasn’t pulling away, trying to head-butt or resisting in any way.
Once outside, Wiltgen and Shackelford tripped C.S. to the ground after “Sgt. Wiltgen told C.S. something to the effect of “B—-, if you want to hurt somebody, we’re the ones to hurt” and said something to C.S. about “putting hands on our people.” C.S. hit the ground with his chest and head. Shackelford got in shots to the shoulder blade and lower back. Burkett joined Wiltgen and Shackelford outside. Burkett’s admission says got in open-handed shots to the upper back as well as a punch to the body. With C.S. face down and Shackelford putting a knee in his back to keep him in place, Wiltgen began a run of 15 kicks to C.S.’s face and shoulders. Shackelford’s admission says Wiltgen followed the kicking with the spitting and the racial slur. “C.S. was screaming during the assault until he lost consciousness from [Wiltgen] kicking him,” Shackelford’s admission says. “This assault lasted approximately one to two minutes.” C.S.’s injuries were described as “severe, soft tissue swelling on the left side of the face — deformity;” “left eye grossly swollen shut;” “bleeding or draining from the ears;” “laceration to the top left side of the lip where his tooth was out and loose;” and abrasions above the right eye, to the right ear, chin and forehead.
The Justice Department said the investigation was handled by the Florida Department of Corrections Office of Inspector General and the FBI. This story was originally published March 3, 2022 7:33 AM.