The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

November 9, 2013

Michael Unit inmate gets 20 years, fine for assault of corrections officer

By MARY RAINWATER
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE —

After 15 minutes of deliberations, an Anderson County jury issued a maximum 20-year sentence and $5,000 fine to a Michael Unit inmate for his role in the May 2011 assault of a corrections officer.

Allyson Mitchell, an attorney with the special prosecution unit — whose role is to prosecute cases that occur in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system — reported that the jury took just seven minutes to find Willie Womack, 25, guilty of Assault of a Public Servant.

The trial took place Tuesday and Wednesday in the court of State District Judge Pam Foster Fletcher. The defendant was represented by attorney Barbara Law of the State Council for Offenders. Because of his prior record, Womack's offense was upgraded to a second-degree felony.

On May 7, 2011, Womack was being escorted from the shower back to administrative segregation by corrections officers Dakota Acker and John Black when the inmate slipped out of his handcuffs.

“He still had the cuffs on one hand,” Mitchell said, “He struck CO Acker in the face with the handcuffs and hit him in the mouth, breaking off his two front teeth.

“He also had a huge gash on the side of his head and other related bumps and bruises.”

Reinforcements were called in to help gain control of the inmate, and Acker was taken to Palestine Regional Medical Center for treatment. Acker followed up with a dentist to repair his teeth, Mitchell said. Womack was not injured during the assault.

Mitchell called Womack a “violent offender,” reporting several outbursts from the inmate during the 2-day trial.

“I am very pleased with the jury's verdict and I hope this sends other inmates the message that Anderson County jurors will not tolerate abuse against corrections officers,” Mitchell said. “When those officers step through those prison doors, they are putting their lives on the line — their job is not just to protect inmates from each other, but to protect us as citizens as well.”

Mitchell also reported being pleased with the jury's decision to fine Womack, as those tend to hit the offender harder.

“It hurts them financially to be fined,” she said. “That money comes out as a percentage of their commissary funds, so when that happens it sometimes has more of an impact on the inmate than the time sentences.”

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Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at mrainwater@palestineherald.com