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Florida cop indicted for allegedly beating handcuffed inmate

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A Florida deputy accused of bashing a handcuffed inmate's head against a wall and kneeing him in the face was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury.

William D. Wheeler, 46, of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, was charged with deprivation of rights and falsification of records.

Police say the assault took place October 9, 2013, when the deputy was assigned to a county jail in Belle Glade and the inmate was being treated in the facility's medical unit. After the inmate kept a nurse from reviewing his medical bracelet, Wheeler grabbed the prisoner's arm and the man pulled away, prosecutors say. The deputy then put his hands around the man's neck, struck his head against the wall, pulled him to the floor and kneed him in the face, all while the inmate was handcuffed and a jailhouse camera was rolling, according to prosecutors.

The inmate, identified only as "J.S." in court filings, was injured in the face, which made it necessary for Wheeler to file a report on the encounter. In that paperwork, prosecutors said, Wheeler claimed the inmate had threatened him and was about to spit at him. The deputy said he grabbed the man's jaw, but that the inmate then dug his fingernails into him. Wheeler said the man's face hit the floor when he pulled him out of his chair and that he had kneed him in his torso.

Prosecutors say the video showed the deputy lied.

"Law enforcement officers and public servants are not above the law, but are held to the highest standard," U.S. Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer said in a written statement. "They must protect the civil rights of the individuals they are sworn to protect and monitor. Those individuals who violate our civil liberties and falsify documents to conceal their criminal conduct will be held accountable within the justice system."

After-hours calls and emails to the sheriff's office and Wheeler's attorney were not immediately answered. If convicted, Wheeler faces up to 30 years in prison.

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