Cop’s attacker sentenced
Published 10:34 pm Monday, December 10, 2012
Brutal beating earns man life plus 40 years
The man who savagely beat and nearly killed Officer James Winslow on May 19 was sentenced Monday morning to life plus 40 years for the assault and related crimes.
Joe Louis Staton, 43, likely will spend the rest of his life in prison, although he eventually could be eligible for geriatric release, prosecutor George Bruch said.
The emotional hearing saw Officer Winslow’s first public statement about the events of the day, as well as testimony from his mother, brother, uncle and father-in-law.
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About two dozen police officers packed into the courtroom, and about three dozen more waited outside in the hallway. As Winslow and his family exited after the sentencing, they were flanked by rows of blue uniforms nearly all the way to the elevator.
“Officer Winslow is a great example of an officer that was doing what all of us do that serve our community,” Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Bennett said after the hearing. “When all of our family and friends are home in bed or walking around, it’s people like James Winslow that protect us from animals like Joe Staton.”
Staton started the May 19 chain of events by stealing a vehicle from a 7-Eleven in Norfolk while the driver was inside the store. When the theft was reported to the lien holder, a tracking device was activated that showed the vehicle was at the Raceway on Portsmouth Boulevard in Suffolk.
Winslow got the call and headed to the area, pulling in behind the vehicle as it left the gas station. When Winslow attempted a traffic stop, Staton stopped, bailed and ran into the woods, with Winslow hot on his heels.
However, dispatchers soon lost radio contact with Winslow. Officers arriving to assist found him in the woods — beaten, bloody and going in and out of consciousness.
Winslow took the stand during Monday’s hearing to tell the story of what happened in the interim. Wearing thick glasses to correct double vision resulting from the attack, and bearing a scar from the top of his head to behind his right ear, he recalled the terrible events.
“I remember getting hit once up in the eye area,” he said. “I could feel my bones crushing and grinding.”
Several more hits followed, and Winslow felt more broken bones with every blow.
He felt Staton searching his waist area and realized his assailant was trying to get his service weapon. Following his training, he rolled on his side to pin the weapon between his body and the ground and protected it with both hands.
“The next thing I remember, I woke up in ICU in Norfolk,” he said.
He could not see for a week and suffered from “one of the worst headaches I’ve ever had in my life,” he said.
Surgeons performed emergency surgery as soon as Winslow arrived at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital to relieve a blood clot on his brain. More reconstructive surgeries followed, and he still faces another surgery to attempt to correct his double vision.
Winslow, who said he had wanted to be a police officer ever since he was a boy, admitted he is not sure about what he wants to do when he returns to work.
“Right now, I don’t have the desire to go back out on the street at this point in time,” he said. “I hated to see what it put my family through.”
Winslow’s family members recalled in grisly detail how his face appeared when they saw him in the hospital.
“May the 19th of 2012 was the worst day of my life,” said Victoria Winslow, his mother. “It was something a parent should never have to see, or a wife or anybody.”
Winslow’s uncle, Chris Jones, called the crimes senseless, heinous and unprovoked.
“I think it was the worst that humanity had to offer,” Jones said. “He beat him to kill him and he left him to die, I’m convinced. I think he has a debt to pay to society.”
Staton also spoke from the witness stand. Leaning over the microphone, sobbing and looking directly at Winslow and his family, Staton claimed he did not realize he was breaking Winslow’s bones. He said he had been on the run for about a year and a half and using a fake name for much of that time.
That week, he left his job and caught rides to Norfolk after being told police were looking for him to serve warrants. He said he stole the vehicle so he could come back to Suffolk and pick up clothes.
Staton also claimed he had no intention of using the gun on Winslow, saying he only wanted to get the officer to stop chasing him.
When he realized Winslow had released the clip on his gun, “I said, ‘This man thinks I’m trying to kill him,’” Staton said.
He also invoked religion, saying he has “wholeheartedly repented through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
“I’m very sorry for what I’ve done,” he told Winslow and his family.
Prosecutor Robert Sandwich said the case would have been a capital murder case were it not for “the grace of God,” the quick and decisive actions of police officers, paramedics, doctors and nurses, the support of Winslow’s family and his own fortitude.
“Had it not been for those things, he would not be here,” Sandwich said. “It’s that simple.”
Judge William C. Andrews said it was the most heinous, unprovoked, savage case he had seen in 32 years on the bench. He also noted Staton has been convicted of a total of 25 felonies — an average of one per year since he turned 18.
“If you do that to a police officer, what would you do to an ordinary citizen?” Andrews said.
Some happy news also was revealed during the hearing — Winslow and his wife have recently learned they are expecting their first child.