MOUNT STERLINE, Ill. (WTVO) — A former Illinois corrections officer has been sentenced to 20 years behind bars on Thursday for his role in the 2018 beating death of a prison inmate.
Alex Banta, 31, of Quincy, was convicted back in April 2022 for Conspiracy to Deprive Civil Rights, Deprivation of Civil Rights, Obstruction of an Investigation, Falsification of Documents and Misleading Conduct, according to NBC News.
Testimony revealed that Banta, along with co-defendants Willie Hedden and Todd Sheffler, handcuffed 65-year-old Larry Earvin and the Western Illinois Correctional Center and escorted him to the segregation unit vestibule. There are no security cameras in that location.
The guards proceeded to throw him so that his head banged into a wall before kicking, punching, and stomping on him. The killing blow came when Banta jumped and landed on Earvin’s abdomen with both knees, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Bass.
Earvin suffered 15 broken ribs and abdominal injuries in the May 17, 2018 beating. He later died on June 26.
Banta faces life in prison, but U.S. District Judge Sue Myerscough sentenced him to 15 years for the civil rights charges and five years for the other counts, which will run consecutively.
“You were one of the younger officers caught up in the culture at Western of ‘see no evil’ and ‘snitches get stitches,’ which you learned from your superiors, but it in no way excuses your conduct,” Myerscough said. “The governor has replaced the warden and implemented other reforms, so hopefully this culture has changed already.”
Banta said before his sentencing that he regretted his action and the pain that he caused Earvin’s family.
“What type of person does it take to assault a 65-year-old man who’s handcuffed behind his back?” remarked Earvin’s brother Willie Earvin Jr., 74, who testified for the prosecution. “I’m a Vietnam veteran and we weren’t allowed to do that to prisoners.”
Banta said that he was instructed from the very beginning to look away from indiscretions.
“On my first day, during orientation, Internal Affairs (officers) asked the supervisory staff to leave and then started to tell us, ‘Forget what you learned at the academy. We do things differently here,’” Banta said. “Things will happen that you might need to ignore. If things happen with an inmate, aim for the body and not the face.”