Ex-prison guard gets 3 years for failing to help sick inmate who later died

RICHMOND, Va. — A former high-ranking guard at a federal prison in Virginia has been sentenced to three years in prison for failing to help an inmate who suffered a medical emergency and later died, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Michael Anderson, 52, was a lieutenant at a medium-security prison in Petersburg. He was the second-highest officer there for several hours when the 2021 inmate health crisis occurred.

The inmate, identified only as WW, exhibited sudden symptoms, including incoherence and the inability to stand, according to court documents from federal prosecutors. He fell continuously in his cell and later in a suicide cell.

Prosecutors say he later hit his head on a door frame.

“While WW lay alone on the ground, naked and covered in bruises and abrasions, no correctional officer responded to his medical emergency or otherwise provided assistance to WW for nearly an hour and forty minutes,” prosecutors wrote.

WW died of head trauma, according to prosecutors. A medical examiner said he would have lived if he had been “hospitalized and evaluated at any point in his ordeal.”

The man’s cellmate, correctional officers and suicide watch monitors had notified prison supervisors and asked for help, prosecutors wrote. They said Anderson was one of the supervisors who failed to act.

Anderson pleaded guilty in July to one count of deprivation of civil rights. Prosecutors had sought a prison sentence of nearly five to nearly six years, which was within the guideline range.

Anderson’s attorney, Jessica Richardson, wrote in a court filing that Anderson clearly failed to act, but that the inmate’s death was “a concerted failure on the part of multiple staff members.”

She noted Anderson’s stellar record and lack of disciplinary problems over many years.

“This is a man who made a huge mistake, with devastating consequences, for which he has taken responsibility and responsibility,” Richardson wrote.