A federal grand jury in West Palm Beach, Florida, returned a two-count indictment charging Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputy William D. Wheeler, 46, with unlawfully assaulting a man at the Palm Beach County Detention Center on Oct. 9, 2013, and filing a false report on the incident, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI.
According to the allegations contained in court documents, on or about Oct. 9, 2013, Wheeler was employed as a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Deputy and was assigned to the Corrections Division (PBSO) West Detention Center located in Belle Glade, Florida. As part of his duties, the complaint alleges that Wheeler escorted an inmate, J.S., to the medical area of the facility where he was seated in a chair with his hands restrained behind his back with handcuffs. The complaint alleges that J.S. did not comply with the treating nurse’s attempt to review his medical bracelet. The complaint further alleges that as the defendant lifted the inmate’s arm to read the medical bracelet, the inmate pulled his arm away. The complaint alleges that Wheeler then placed his hands around the inmate’s neck, struck the inmate’s head against the wall and pulled the inmate to the floor. The complaint further alleges that the defendant then struck the inmate in the face with his knee. The inmate sustained facial injuries as a result of the incident, which was allegedly captured on a video recording.
According to the complaint, the defendant prepared an incident report regarding the use of force. The complaint further alleges that the defendant was later questioned regarding the incident and claimed to have been physically assaulted by the inmate. The complaint alleges that the defendant’s version of the events is not corroborated by the video footage.
If convicted, Wheeler faces a maximum punishment of 30 years in prison. An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
This case commends the investigative efforts of the West Palm Beach Resident Agency of the FBI, Ric Bradshaw of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and State Attorney Dave Aronberg of the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney D.W. Tunnage of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Osborne of the Southern District of Florida.