U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard has sentenced three former Hamilton Correctional Institution Annex officers for violating the civil rights of an inmate. Coty Michael Wiltgen (32, Live Oak) was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison, followed by two years of supervised release; Ethan Burkett (25, Valdosta, GA) was sentenced to 31 months in federal prison, followed by one year of supervised release, and William Story Shackelford (25, Valdosta, GA) was sentenced to 25 months in federal prison, followed by 1 year of supervised release. Wiltgen, Burkett, and Shackelford were ordered to surrender to their facility of designation no later than 2:00 p.m. on April 28, 2022.
On June 4, 2021, June 9, 2021, and July 22, 2021, Shackelford, Wiltgen, and Burkett, respectively, had pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of an inmate.
According to court documents, on March 3, 2020, Burkett, Wiltgen, and Shackelford, on-duty correctional officers at the Hamilton Correctional Institution Annex (HCI) in Jasper, Florida, struck an inmate multiple times while the inmate was handcuffed and lying on the ground. Specifically, Wiltgen, and Shackelford escorted the victim to an outdoor area at HCI and assaulted the victim following an earlier altercation involving the victim and Burkett. The victim had pushed Burkett off his path while he was chasing after another inmate. After pushing Burkett and walking away, the victim was sprayed with pepper spray by Wiltgen. The victim laid down on the floor, showed no signs of resistance, and was handcuffed by Wiltgen. Wiltgen and Shackelford then escorted the cooperative and compliant victim outside of the facility, and out of camera view, and made the victim fall to the ground. Wiltgen kicked the victim in the face approximately 15 times while he was face down on the ground. Wiltgen was also observed calling the victim a racial epithet and spitting on the victim. Shackelford held the victim on the ground with his knee in the victim’s back to keep him from moving and struck the victim in the side. When Burkett arrived outside, he went up to the victim and hit him twice with an open hand to the upper back and punched the victim. The victim was screaming during the assault and was knocked unconscious by Wiltgen kicking him. This assault lasted approximately one to two minutes. Burkett, Wiltgen, and Shackelford knew that the use of force was unnecessary and excessive, counter to their training and completely unjustified at the time that they used, and watched others use, force against the victim. As a result of the assault, the victim suffered several injuries.
This case was investigated by the Florida Department of Corrections – Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ashley Washington.