ATLANTA – A federal district court jury found Donald R. LaFond and Jason Robert Widdison guilty of second-degree murder. LaFond and Widdison are both federal prison inmates.
“This verdict shows that, even within the federal prison system, violent offenders must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “The fact that this particular homicide was motivated by racial animus makes these defendants’ actions all the more reprehensible. The Department of Justice and its Bureau of Prisons endeavor to protect the life and safety of every federal inmate. We remain vigilant and will do everything we can to ensure that prisons are as safe as possible for every inmate and employee.”
Ricky Maxwell, Acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated, “The FBI, with assistance from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Special Investigations Section, was determined to bring these two violent inmates forward and hold them accountable for the murder of a fellow inmate with the firm understanding that within the federal prison system, the rule of law still applies.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court: On March 1, 2011, LaFond and Widdison, both members of white supremacist prison gangs, were exercising inside the special housing unit recreation area of the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. The victim, a white inmate who was not a gang member, joined the defendants in the area and attempted to make conversation and walk around with them.
After a short period of time, LaFond and Widdison suddenly began to punch the victim from both front and behind, knocking the victim to the ground. Both LaFond and Widdison then stomped on the victim’s head and neck, as many as 10 times each. A correction officer witnessed the incident and intervened. Both men complied with the officers’ orders to stop beating the victim, but by then, the victim was unconscious. The victim was taken to a hospital but never regained consciousness. As a result of his injuries, the victim died on April 5, 2011.
The evidence at trial showed that, in the weeks leading up to the assault, Donald R. LaFond, Jr., 53, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Jason Robert Widdison, 35, of Morgan, Utah, expressed anger towards the victim because the victim refused to protest the fact that he had a black cellmate. The defendants pressured the victim to take any steps necessary to be reassigned to another cell. Further evidence showed that the victim refused to comply with the defendants’ demands and that the defendants regarded this refusal as a violation of their gang code.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.