Inmate from Morgan convicted of racially-motivated prison murder in Ga.

Feb 6 2014 - 6:09pm

ATLANTA -- Federal prosecutors say two prison inmates have been found guilty in a racially motivated murder at a facility in Atlanta.

Authorities say 53-year-old Donald R. LaFond Jr. of New Bedford, Mass., and 35-year-old Jason Robert Widdison, of Morgan, Utah beat another inmate to death in March 2011.

Officials say the victim, who was also white, refused to comply with white supremacist prison gang code when he declined to protest having a black cellmate.

Prosecutors say the victim was attacked when he tried making conversation with LaFond and Widdison while they were exercising. The two began punching the victim and stomped his head and neck, as many as 10 times each, after he fell to the ground. The victim died nearly a month after the attack.

A federal jury convicted LaFond and Widdison of second-degree murder in the  death at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates' office said. 

"This verdict shows that, even within the federal prison system, violent offenders must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Yates said in an emailed statement. "The fact that this particular homicide was motivated by racial animus makes these defendants' actions all the more reprehensible."

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that corrections officers witnessed the incident and intervened, and Lafond and Widdison stopped the attack, but by then the victim was unconscious. The victim, whose name was not released, was transported to the hospital, but never regained consciousness and died April 5, 2011.

According to evidence during the trial, LaFond and Widdison pressured the victim to take any steps necessary to be reassigned to another cell. The inmate's refusal to comply with LaFond and Widdison violated the prison gang code, Yates said.

Sentencing details for the pair were not released.

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