Palm Beach Cop Charged for Beating Handcuffed Inmate
Being arrested isn’t fun, and there probably isn’t anyone out there who’d tell you that when you’re arrested, you should expect gentle treatment and a nice, relaxing atmosphere.
That said, as our Delray Beach and Hollywood criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert know, if you’ve been arrested, you do deserve to be treated safely and with respect.
As one Palm Beach County police officer recently learned, beating a suspect and lying about it can land you in some hot water in the form of serious criminal charges.
According to police, William Wheeler of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office bashed the head of a handcuffed inmate against a wall before kneeing him in the face back in October of 2013, while the officer was assigned to a county jail in Belle Glade. To add insult to injury, the inmate was being treated in the Belle Glade jail’s medical unit at the time.
Wheeler and the inmate entered into an altercation during which the officer grabbed the inmate’s arm, causing the inmate to pull away. Then, according to prosecutors, while security cameras were rolling, Wheeler grabbed the man by his neck, struck his head against the jail wall, pulled him down to the floor of the jail and kneed him in the face. During this beating, the inmate was handcuffed, rendered effectively defenseless. As our Delray Beach and Hollywood criminal defense lawyers know, any use of force by a law enforcement officer needs to be justified. In this case, because (from what we can tell) the inmate posed no threat to the officer or those around him, the officer was unjustified in using physical force against the inmate.
Of course, it’s almost impossible to come up with any instance in which the brutal beating which took place in this case would be acceptable; if a regular Floridian had been caught on the side of the street viciously pummeling another individual, while that individual was restrained, police officers wouldn’t hesitate to arrest him and haul him off to prison. This case shows that police officers, while given a firearm and the ability to enforce the law, are still held to a high standard — if they break the law, they face potential punishment. As our Delray Beach and Hollywood criminal defense lawyers know, in this case, if the officer is convicted of the charges he faces — deprivation of rights and falsification of records — he faces up to 30 years in prison.
Wheeler, after the incident, skewed the story in his favor. Required to file a report of the incident due to the injuries to the face of the inmate, the officer claimed in that paperwork that the inmate threatened him and was about to spit at him; then, the officer said, he grabbed the man’s jaw but the inmate dug his fingernails into him. Finally, Wheeler reported that the inmate’s face hit the floor when he pulled him out of his chair and that he kneed the inmate in his torso. The problem was, as we noted above, the security camera was running, and according to prosecutors, the video shows that the officer lied about what happened.
If you have any questions about this or any other criminal defense or law enforcement issue, or if you’ve been arrested for or charged with a crime in Palm Beach, Broward or Miaim-Dade County, please contact our Delray Beach and Hollywood criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363) to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to assisting you.