2nd officer in inmate’s fatal beating gets same 20-year term

Mar 20, 2023, 3:36 PM

FILE - Former Illinois Correctional Lt. Todd Sheffler returns to federal court in Springfield, Ill....

FILE - Former Illinois Correctional Lt. Todd Sheffler returns to federal court in Springfield, Ill., on April 21, 2022. Sheffler, the second of three former correctional officers to be sentenced in the beating death of a state prisoner, received a 20-year term on Monday, March 20, 2023, the same as a co-conspirator despite the judge's declaration that Sheffler was the highest-ranking officer and could have prevented them melee. (AP Photo/John O'Connor, File)

(AP Photo/John O'Connor, File)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The second of three former correctional officers sentenced in the fatal beating of a state inmate received a 20-year prison term Monday, the same as a co-conspirator despite a judge’s declaration he could have stopped the attack as the senior officer.

U.S. District Judge Sue Myerscough sentenced Todd Sheffler, a 54-year-old former correctional lieutenant, on two federal civil rights violations and various other counts for the attempted cover up of the brutal beating of Larry Earvin on May 17, 2018.

The federal government had sought a life sentence. Sheffler’s lawyers had asked for 2 1/2 years for the beating of Earvin, 65, as the prisoner was being transferred to a segregation unit at Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mount Sterling.

In an emotional statement in court, Sheffler fumbled with shackled hands and wiped tears from his eyes with a tissue. He said he accepted responsibility “for what I did or didn’t do” that caused Earvin’s death.

Then, looking at Earvin’s son Larry Pippion, who was seated in the first row in court, the ex-guard said with his voice rising to a shout, “I did not put hands on your father. If it has to be life, let it be life, but I will not lie to favor someone’s conviction record.”

He added, “If there’s anything I can do for the Earvin family, I will do it. I expect nothing less than your hatred.”

conspiracy to deprive civil rights, deprivation of civil rights, obstruction of an investigation, falsification of documents and misleading conduct.

Hedden pleaded guilty and testified for the government. Scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday, he declined comment outside the courthouse.

Myerscough sentenced Sheffler, like Banta last week, to 15 years on each civil rights charge, to run concurrently, and five years each on the other charges, also concurrently.

“You were an active participant,” Myerscough told Sheffler in explaining his sentence. “We’re well past the point of minimizing conduct and shifting blame. … Three witnesses testified that you contributed to the assault. You were the senior officer and could have stopped it.”

Earvin was late in reporting for outdoor yard time and was ordered back to his cell at the prison in Mount Sterling, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) southwest of Chicago. He allegedly became combative and an “officer in distress” call summoned dozens of officers. Outside the housing unit, Banta, Hedden and Sheffler escorted Earvin, handcuffed behind his back, to the segregation unit.

Inside that facility’s vestibule, where there are no security cameras, testimony indicated the three officers threw Earvin into a wall, then kicked, punched and stomped him.

In Myerscough’s words, Banta delivered “the most serious and depraved blow” by jumping up and landing on Earvin’s mid-section with both knees. Earvin suffered 15 broken ribs and abdominal injuries so severe that a portion of his bowel was surgically removed. He died June 26, more than a month after the beating.

In his statement, Sheffler admitted for the first time that he saw Banta jump and come down on his knees. He said he couldn’t see but assumed he landed on Earvin and could not persuade himself to tell the truth because Banta had two small children and another on the way and “I was aware of the implications” if Banta’s action was known.

Like Banta, Sheffler offered an indictment of the Department of Corrections, derided its effort to offer mental health treatment, and said its main goal is to “cover the state’s ass.”

In sentencing Banta, Myerscough acknowledged he had been “caught up in the culture” of acting on or witnesses violence against inmates and keeping quiet about it.

Sheffler attorney Sara Vig noted that her client didn’t join the escort until Earvin was outside the housing unit and that testimony revealed Earvin was handled roughly inside, including testimony by one of the 31 officers who responded to the distress call that he had stomped on a prone Earvin just inside the housing unit door. She wondered why no one else has been held accountable.

“Imagine the change in the system if all 31 were charged,” Vig said. “Justice can’t be meted out on my client’s back.”

Department of Corrections spokesperson Naomi Puzzello said that staff and inmate safety is the agency’s top priority.

“Over the last few years, the department has worked diligently to expand security measures statewide and improve its responsiveness to the concerns of individuals in custody,” Puzzello said in a statement.

National News

Associated Press

Arizona State University to create a medical school in response to doctors, nurses shortage

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State University will establish its own medical school amid an ongoing shortage of health care workers across the state. University President Michael Crow and the Arizona Board of Regents announced the plans for school, to be called ASU Health, at a meeting Thursday morning in Tempe. “One of our problems […]

13 hours ago

Associated Press

Man pleads guilty to assaulting Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota in DC apartment building

WASHINGTON (AP) — A man pleaded guilty Thursday to assaulting Democratic Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota in the elevator of her Washington apartment building in February, according to court records. Kendrid Khalil Hamlin pleaded guilty to charges of assaulting a member of Congress and assaulting law enforcement officers, according to the court docket. Hamlin was […]

13 hours ago

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., walks to the House chamber at the Capitol in Washing...

Associated Press

Underestimated McCarthy emerges from debt deal empowered as speaker, still threatened by far right

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is nothing if not a political survivor. Underestimated from the start, the Republican who cruised around his California hometown of Bakersfield and stumbled into a career in Congress was never taken too seriously by the Washington establishment. With overwhelming to seal the deal. “You still ask the same […]

13 hours ago

President Joe Biden talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednes...

Associated Press

Senate passes GOP bill overturning student loan cancellation, teeing it up for Biden veto

WASHINGTON (AP) — A student loan cancellation plan passed the Senate on Thursday and now awaits an expected veto. The vote was 52-46, with support from Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana as well as Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an independent. The resolution was approved last week by the […]

13 hours ago

FILE - Heather Mack of Chicago, Ill., center, is mobbed by reporters as she arrives in the courtroo...

Associated Press

Heather Mack, convicted in mother’s murder in Bali, plans to plead guilty in US, attorney says

CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago woman facing federal conspiracy charges in the 2014 killing of her mother during a luxury vacation in Bali plans to plead guilty, her attorney said Thursday. The details of any plea agreement or potential penalties under discussion by Heather Mack and U.S. prosecutors remain unclear. Her attorney, Michael Leonard, said […]

13 hours ago

In this courtroom sketch, Robert Bowers, the suspect in the 2018 synagogue massacre, is on trial in...

Associated Press

Rabbi recounts fear and heroism during deadliest antisemitic attack in US history

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Rabbi Jonathan Perlman took the witness stand Thursday wearing the yarmulke he had on the day a gunman burst into his Pittsburgh synagogue during Sabbath services and began shooting anyone he could find. The skullcap Jews wear as a reminder of God’s presence fell off during the Oct. 27, 2018, attack on […]

13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

2nd officer in inmate’s fatal beating gets same 20-year term