Ala. inmate gets more than 12 years for corrections officer assault
Veteran CO Cathy Evans was brutally attacked in April
By Michael Wetzel
The Decatur Daily
DECATUR, Ala. — A federal inmate has been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for attacking and seriously injuring a female Morgan County corrections officer last year, and Sheriff Ron Puckett said the court system showed teeth with the punishment.
Lemond Lawrence Burns, 22, of Alpine, was a federal inmate in the county jail when the incident occurred. He was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Liles C. Burke to 150 months in state prison for assault, the U.S. District Attorney's Office said Tuesday.
Veteran jailer Cathy Evans was treated at Decatur Morgan Hospital after the assault in April but has since returned to work. Burns was immediately transferred to another facility after the attack, Sheriff's Office spokesman Mike Swafford said.
Puckett said he was satisfied with the sentencing.
"Today, justice was served. I am grateful for U.S. Attorney (Prim F.) Escalona and the U.S. Secret Service for their handling of this case," Puckett said. "Corrections officers work tirelessly in a profession that many would never attempt. The senseless, brazen assault on officer Evans was unacceptable, and today's sentence reinforces that sentiment."
Burns was in the Morgan County Jail on April 19 when he approached Evans and punched her twice in the head and face while she was delivering meals, Swafford said. The attack was captured on video surveillance cameras in the jail, court records show.
Evans was taken to Decatur Morgan Hospital with multiple injuries including a concussion and contusions around her mouth and eye and bruising to her back, head and arms from hitting the ground, Swafford said.
"She returned to work in June 2021 and is doing well since the incident," he said.
A federal grand jury indicted Burns on the assault charge in August.
Burns pleaded guilty in October to the charge in exchange for leniency from the court, according to court records. At the time of the plea, the federal government said it would recommend a lower sentencing for Burns' "acceptance of responsibility."
The maximum penalty for assault is not more than 20 years in prison and/or a fine of not more than $250,000, plus supervised release of not more than three years and a special assessment fee of $100.
A month after the attack, the Morgan County Commission approved Puckett's request for 105 body cameras and a 1.5% pay raise for Sheriff's Office employees. All county employees have since received additional raises.
Puckett said at the time of the 1.5% raise that "money is not a silver bullet. The (sheriff and jail) employees are wanting better conditions. Every job we have is dangerous."
Escalona said his office will continue to protect law enforcement officials.
"Corrections officers perform a difficult and sometimes dangerous job to ensure that inmates are housed safely," he said. "My office will not hesitate to prosecute any inmates who violate the law by attacking and injuring corrections officers."
Court records show Burns was incarcerated at the Morgan County Jail on a capital murder charge and federal conspiracy and fraud charges. He pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and fraud charges in June and was sentenced to 13 years and ordered to pay restitution of $35,343.29. Burke ordered the 150-month sentence for assault to run consecutively with sentences in three other cases involving Burns.
Burns faces life in prison without parole or death if convicted of capital murder in a Madison County case. He is accused of killing Dallis Patrick Ryan Wolfe, an Alabama A&M student, in January 2021.
Madison County District Court records allege Burns fired multiple rounds of a .40-caliber handgun from a motor vehicle into the left side of a vehicle and struck and killed Wolfe on Jan. 18, 2021.
He was indicted with three other people on conspiracy and fraud charges for using multiple counterfeit and unauthorized access devices from their cellphones to purchase goods and pre-paid debit cards from a Walmart store in Gadsden on several occasions between September 2019 and January 2020.
(c)2022 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.)