An Illinois prison guard has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for beating to death
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (AP) — A former state corrections officer was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison for his role in the May 2018 beating death of a prison inmate.
US District Judge Sue Myerscough said Alex Banta, 31, of Quincy was “caught up in the culture” of silence surrounding physical abuse of inmates, but there was no excuse for the treatment of 65-year-old Larry Irvin at a western Illinois correctional center.
In a statement to the court, Banta expressed remorse and took responsibility for his actions, but confirmed trial testimony that harsh treatment of prisoners was not only condoned but expected at Mount Sterling Prison, 250 miles (400 km) southwest of Chicago.
After a four-week trial, Banta was found guilty by a jury in April 2022 Conspiracy to deny civil rightsdenial of civil rights, obstruction of investigation, falsification of documents, and deceptive conduct.
He faced life imprisonment. Myerskopf sentenced him to 15 years in prison on the civil rights charges and five years on the other charges, for running respectively.
“I was one of the younger officers caught up in the western culture of ‘see no evil’ and ‘whistleblowers get stitches,’ which you learned from your superiors, but it in no way justifies your behavior,” Myerskopf said. “The governor replaced the jailer and executed. Other reforms, so hopefully that culture has already changed.”
FILE – This undated photo provided by the Illinois Department of Corrections shows Larry Irvin, a former inmate at Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mount Sterling, Illinois. A former state correctional officer was sentenced Thursday, March 16, 2023, to 20 years in federal prison for his role in the May 2018 beating death of Irvin. (Illinois Department of Corrections via AP, File)
It resulted in the beating of Irvin on May 17, 2018 15 broken ribs and abdominal injuries So severe that part of his intestines had to be surgically removed. He died on June 26.
“What kind of person does it take to assault a 65-year-old man who is handcuffed behind his back?” Irvin’s brother Willie Irvin Jr., 74, who testified for the prosecution, noted. “I’m a Vietnam veteran and we weren’t allowed to do that to prisoners.”
Other guards testified that Irvin, after reporting late for a break in the yard, refused to return to his cell and allegedly became combative. This resulted in an “officer in distress” call to which all available officers are required to respond. Dozens did so and then many, including Banta, accompanied him to the apartheid unit.
He was dealt harshly in the housing unit. But eyewitnesses and medical experts testified that the debilitating and ultimately fatal injuries were the result of kicking, punching, stomping and jumping on the prone Irvin in the classroom unit’s vestibule, where there are no security cameras. Assistant US Attorney Timothy Bass announced that the fatal blow to Irvin came when Banta jumped and landed on the prisoner’s stomach with his knees.
Charged with Banta, Reformed Lt. Todd Scheffler of Mendon and Sgt. Willie Hedin of Mount Sterling. Scheffler was one of Banta’s advocates but in his first trial, the jury was unable to reach a verdict. He was retried last summer and convicted on the same charges as Banta in August. Hayden pleaded guilty in March 2021 to the more serious charges and testified against both Banta and Scheffler.
Sentencing is scheduled for Scheffler on Monday and Heden on Wednesday. ___ Follow political writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor
Willie Irvin Jr., 74, left and Larry Bibione, 51, stand after testifying in the sentencing of former state corrections officer Alex Banta in US District Court on Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Springfield, Illinois. Banta, 31, has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for his role in the May 2018 death of Larry Irvin, 65, brother of Willie Irvin and father of Bibione. Todd Scheffler and Willie Hayden, fellow defendants of Banta, are scheduled to be sentenced next week. (AP Photo/John O’Connor)
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