Springfield, Ill. — A former Illinois state corrections officer was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in federal prison for his role in the May 2018 beating of a prison inmate.
Alex Banta, 31, of Quincy was “stuck in a culture” of silence around violence against inmates, but that was no excuse for the treatment of Larry Arvin, 65, at the Western Illinois Correctional Center, US District Judge Sue Myersko said. Said.
In a statement to the court, Banta expressed regret and took responsibility for his actions, but confirmed trial testimony did not allow harsh treatment of inmates at the prison at Mount Sterling, 250 miles (400 km) southwest of Chicago. was not only forgiven but also expected.
After a four-week trial, a jury convicted Banta in April 2022 of conspiracy to commit extortion, deprivation of civil rights, obstructing an investigation, falsification of documents and deceptive conduct.
Trial testimony revealed that Banta and co-defendants Todd Scheffler and Willie Hayden handcuffed Irvin behind his back, escorted him to the isolation unit vestibule, where there were no security cameras, threw him so that his head hit a wall , then kicked, punched and slammed him. Assistant US Attorney Timothy Bass announced that Arvin suffered the fatal blow when the bantha jumped up and fell on both knees on the inmate’s stomach.
He faced life in prison. Myerscough sentenced him to 15 years on the civil rights charges and five years on the other counts, to run consecutively.
“You were one of those young officers who got caught up in the western culture of ‘see no evil’ and ‘stitches get stitches’, which you learned from your superiors, but this in no way affected your conduct. doesn’t justify,” Myerscoff said. “The governor has replaced the warden and implemented other reforms, so hopefully this culture has already changed.”
On May 17, 2018, Arvin suffered 15 broken ribs and abdominal injuries so severe that a portion of his intestine was surgically removed from the beating. He died on 26 June.
“What kind of person is it to attack a 65-year-old man who has handcuffs behind his back?” The remarks were made by Arvin’s brother Willie Arvin Jr., 74, who testified for the prosecution. “I’m a Vietnam veteran and we weren’t allowed to do that to prisoners.”
In his statement to the court before sentencing, Banta, who looked down during most of the proceedings, said his apology would mean little to a federal judge, who would likely ask the defendants before him to accept it. Listens again and again, but he said he regrets his actions and the pain he has caused. She gave birth to Arvin’s family.
He said he went to work at Western in 2014 to support his family “but I had no idea how the job was going to change me.” He described an environment where he was instructed from the very beginning to shun indiscretions.
“On my first day, during orientation, internal affairs[officers]told the supervisory staff to leave and then began telling us, ‘Forget what you learned at the academy. We do things differently here.’ Banta said. “‘There will be things you may need to ignore. If something happens to a prisoner, aim at the body and not the face.'”
A request for comment was emailed to a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Arvin, who suffered from a mental illness, was serving a six-year sentence in Cook County for theft of goods less than $300 and was due to be released in September 2018. He also had a 1984 rap sheet.
But his son, Larry Pipien, 51, questioned why he was locked up for a minor offense when he was mentally ill.
“Is there no other way to help him than to throw him away?” Pippin asked. Myerscough later called this fact “an indictment of our system”.
Other guards at Western testified that day that Arvin, after reporting too late for a break in the yard, refused to return to his cell and allegedly became belligerent. This prompted an “officer in distress” call, which required all available officers to respond. Dozens of people did so and then several people including Banta took them to the isolation unit.
Scheffler was tried along with Banta but the jury that convicted Banta was hung over Scheffler. He was tried again last summer and convicted in August on the same counts as Banta. Hayden pleaded guilty to more serious charges in March 2021 and testified against both Banta and Scheffler.
Hayden testified Thursday that a few years before the incident with Arvin, he saw Banta punch and kick another inmate. On cross-examination, he would not say so much that violence against prisoners was an unstated policy, but said that superiors knew about it and that “it was very prevalent. It happened very often.