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Head of Missouri Jail Sentenced for Beating, Arranging Attacks on Prisoners

The former head jailer at Missouri’s Washington County Jail (WCJ), about 60 miles from St. Louis, has been convicted of violating the civil rights of four prisoners and obstruction of justice. His daughter, a guard at the jail, also was convicted of obstructing justice.

The charges against the former jail boss, Vernon Wilson, 57, stemmed from four incidents that occurred in 2005. In separate incidents, Wilson slapped two prisoners hard enough to force their heads into a concrete wall. In the latter two incidents, Wilson gave prisoners cigarettes for attacking two other prisoners he considered troublemakers. Three of the victims were awaiting trial; one was the son of a sheriff’s deputy.

WCJ prisoner Gary Gieselman was a victim of one of the latter assaults. Wilson put Gieselman into the “rough tank” after he had an argument with Wilson’s daughter. Gieselman was attacked by other prisoners and suffered permanent facial damage, including a broken jaw, fractures around his eye and missing teeth.

According to Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, “Wilson used the power of his position to punish these inmates,” and in doing so, “his actions brought shame to his fellow law enforcement officers, but even more than that, they served to undermine our faith and confidence in the criminal justice system.”

Gieselman said the jury’s verdict confirmed that his civil rights had been violated.
Nevertheless, he expressed dismay at the culture of abuse that was allowed to persist at WCJ. “While Vernon Wilson will face justice, I am still concerned that the practice of beating prisoners was allowed to continue for so long at the Washington County Jail. I do not understand why so many employees and officials stood by silently for so long.”

In addition to Wilson’s convictions for four civil rights violations, he also was convicted of lying to the FBI about the attacks. He was sentenced on July 13, 2011 to ten years in federal prison – the maximum. He had served in law enforcement positions for three decades.

Wilson’s daughter, Valeria Wilson Jackson, 26, pleaded guilty to obstruction charges after she lied to the FBI about the assaults. She was sentenced in March 2011 to five years on probation and six months of house arrest. She had testified against her father at trial. Both Wilson and his daughter were ordered to pay over $13,000 to Gieselman for his medical bills.

Gieselman has also filed a civil rights suit against Wilson, Jackson and Washington County; that lawsuit remains pending. See: Gieselman v. Jackson, U.S.D.C. (E.D. MO), Case No. 4:10-cv-01619-JAR.


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Related legal case

Gieselman v. Jackson