The Justice Department announced today that the former Chief of Police of Stevenson, Alabama, Daniel Winters, 56, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for beating an arrestee and for standing by while Winters’ friend beat the arrestee.
On July 14, 2016, a federal jury convicted Winters of two counts of violating the individual’s civil rights. Winters was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala of the Northern District of Alabama.
According to evidence presented at trial, on March 22, 2015, Winters and a civilian friend went to a residence to investigate suspicions that property had been stolen from the friend’s business and was located at the residence. Upon arrival, Winters and his friend entered the residence without a search warrant and encountered the victim, identified as D.F. Winters and his friend then began to beat D.F. The beating moved outside where Winters and his friend continued to strike and kick the victim in front of the residence. Over the course of approximately five minutes, Winters not only participated in the beating, but stood by watching his friend beat D.F. and did nothing to stop it. A passing motorist called 911 to report the beating. D.F. was left bloody with wounds to his face, chest and back, and was taken to the jail at the Stevenson Police Department. While at the jail, D.F. began to spit up blood. A jailor requested Winters’ permission to call an ambulance, but Winters refused the request. Eventually, the jailor received permission from another supervisor and D.F. was transported to a hospital, where he received medical attention.
“Our society entrusts law enforcement leaders with the profound responsibility of protecting people from harm,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “When law enforcement officials abuse the individuals they swore an oath to protect, they threaten the reputation of their colleagues in the profession who do their jobs honorably and with integrity. This sentencing makes clear that no one, not even a police chief, is above the law.”
“Police department leadership must set the example and uphold the integrity of their departments and meet the rightful expectation of every citizen that law enforcement officers will act in accordance with the laws they have sworn to uphold,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance of the Northern District of Alabama. “In this case, a police chief criminally abused his badge in order to benefit a friend and inflict violence on an individual in violation of the Constitution. Our society cannot allow that kind of abuse of power and authority to go unpunished.”
The FBI and Alabama’s State Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation. Deputy Chief Laura Hodge of the Northern District of Alabama and Trial Attorney Samantha Trepel of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case.