Former Alabama prison guard sentenced to 9 years for not stopping another officer’s assault on inmate

Published 10:20 pm Saturday, February 5, 2022

A former Alabama Department of Corrections lieutenant has been sentenced to nine years in jail for failing to stop an officer from assaulting two inmates.

The U.S. Department of Justice, in a news release Friday, said a federal jury convicted Willie M. Burks III, 41, last July for a 2019 incident that occurred at Elmore Correctional Facility.

The department said evidence at trial showed that former Sgt. Ulysses Oliver Jr. beat two inmates for bringing contraband into the prison. Burks came into a hallway after Oliver had finished the first assault then “stood and watched as Oliver pulled the second inmate from an observation room, threw him on the floor and beat the inmate with his feet and collapsible baton.”

“Despite having the duty, ability and opportunity to intervene to stop Oliver from beating the second inmate, Burks only stood by and said, ‘it’s fair.’ Other ADOC correctional staff who reported to Burks were present for some or all of the assaults, but none intervened to stop Oliver from beating the inmates,” the department said.

“The job of a correctional officer can be difficult and hazardous,” said U.S. Attorney Sandra J. Stewart for the Middle District of Alabama. “A vast majority of them serve with honor and are dedicated to upholding their duty to protect and serve. Unfortunately, some choose to ignore their sacred oaths and engage in criminal conduct or turn a blind eye when others do so. This office will continue to vigorously enforce our nation’s laws and hold officers who break the law accountable.”

Oliver and two other former corrections officers have pleaded guilty in connection with the incident. Oliver pleaded guilty to assaulting the two inmates on April 2, 2019. Former correctional officers Bryanna Mosley and Leon Williams pleaded guilty in May and July 2019, respectively, to failing to intervene to stop the assaults.

“The unacceptable actions of Willie Burks in no way reflect the hard and tireless work of our corrections staff, who endeavor each day to provide a safe and rehabilitative environment for all incarcerated people,” said Arnaldo Mercado, chief law enforcement officer for ADOC’s Law Enforcement Services Division. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms Burks’ behavior and blatant violation of his sworn oath to serve.”