Jail officer’s trial concludes

Published 10:26 pm Friday, July 28, 2017

A former Western Tidewater Regional Jail correctional officer faces sentencing Oct. 2 in a case involving an alleged assault of an inmate.

The bench trial for Abdul Shabazz Wiggins, 43, on a charge of malicious wounding lasted most of Thursday in Suffolk Circuit Court. In the end, Judge L. Wayne Farmer found evidence sufficient for a finding of guilt on unlawful wounding but delayed the finding until sentencing.

Doing so allows him to dismiss the charge or find Wiggins guilty of a lesser offense upon hearing sentencing evidence.

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The incident happened at the jail on the evening of Nov. 5. Wiggins was terminated the following week for violations of jail policy and procedures, Superintendent William C. Smith said.

The victim, 36-year-old Gregory Lassiter, needed surgery to repair a broken nose and also had a broken tooth removed, according to testimony on Thursday.

Lassiter, who is in jail for purse-snatching and credit card theft, testified about the assault during Thursday’s trial.

Lassiter, who is white, said Wiggins, who is black, had been calling him racial epithets, including “cracker,” that evening and threatened to beat him.

When a nurse arrived to pass out medication, Lassiter started to walk through a door toward the nurse. That’s when Wiggins struck him, he testified.

“I just remember hollering, ‘I didn’t do anything, I didn’t do anything,’” Lassiter said.

Other correctional officers came to the scene after another officer called a “Code 13 Red” — which indicates an inmate attack on an officer, according to testimony Thursday.

“I was already down on my face in a pool of blood,” Lassiter said.

Prosecutor Matthew Glassman also had one inmate, the nurse, another nurse that treated the injuries and an affidavit from the doctor who did the surgery as evidence. He also showed video of the incident from two angles.

Wiggins testified in his own defense. Several other correctional officers also testified for the defense, as did an expert on defensive tactics.

Defense attorney Ali Sprinkle said Wiggins never punched Lassiter and that what he did do was a defensive measure. Lassiter was about to walk through a secure door without permission, she said.

“What is he supposed to do? Wait until he gets assaulted? He really has no choice, judge,” she said during a motion to strike during the trial. “It was a defensive measure. Approximately four people had to come get Mr. Lassiter under control.”

The case is due back in court on Oct. 2.