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Prosecutors will not charge prison guards who left a former inmate paralyzed

"Insufficient evidence" cited in the three-year investigation
Cheryl Weimar
Posted at 4:22 PM, Jun 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-28 05:53:08-04

OCALA, Fla. — The state paid out millions to former Florida prison inmate Cheryl Weimar, who was left paralyzed after her neck was broken by guards. But following a nearly three-year investigation, prosecutors have announced those officers will not be charged.

Weimar’s life changed forever in August 2019, when she was left paralyzed by prison guards after refusing to clean a toilet.

“I went down to my knees,” Weimar told us in a February 25, 2022 interview.

According to her civil lawsuit that resulted in a $4.65 million settlement, while Weimar was on the ground, “they brutally beat her with blows to her head, neck, and back,” and she, “was elbowed and kneed in the back of her neck by at least one of her attackers, causing her to suffer a broken neck.”

“They dragged me and my neck was just breaking. I could just hear the bones popping. And I said Lord please don’t let me die this way. Please,” Weimar said in our original interview.

RELATED: Officers accused of inmate beating which left woman paralyzed not charged nearly 3 years later

“There is insufficient evidence”

But after an extensive investigation by the Florida Department of Corrections and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Marion County State Attorney decided not to pursue charges. The investigation included interviews of 117 people, including inmates, security personnel, and medical staff.

A memo released late Friday said, “There is insufficient evidence to prove the injuries were intentional or the result of culpable negligence.”

Culpable negligence is defined under Florida statutes as “showing reckless disregard for human life."

The report said, “It should be noted that some of the witnesses initially refused to be interviewed and litigation by this office was required to ultimately obtain their testimony.”

Cheryl Weimar enjoys a day in the park
Cheryl Weimar enjoys a day in the park

“I cried”

ABC Action News' Adam Walser contacted Weimar by phone Monday.

“I cried. Laying in my bed I said God why not?” Weimar said.

The report provided by prosecutors said Weimar “started kicking the two officers” and when officers initiated a take-down maneuver to bring her to the ground, they claimed, “her momentum carried her forward pushing her shoulders over her head.”

The incident was not caught on camera.

“They were going to blame me for getting hurt. What kind of nonsense is that?” Weimar said.

Prison reform activist Debra Bennett-Austin, President of Change Comes Now, said she was disappointed with the state’s decision not to charge the officers involved.

“I’m sad for Cheryl Weimar and it’s disheartening. I’m not surprised,” she said. “This woman walked into prison. She was rolled out. Now she has to close her eyes every night knowing she can’t even brush her own hair.”

Group organized demonstrations

Bennett-Austin has led efforts to bring visibility to Weimar’s case. She organized protests outside court hearings for former Lt. Keith Turner, who was one of two officers named in the lawsuit. Turner was charged in 2020 in an unrelated case involving sex offenses against children.

Bennett-Austin believes the case involving Weimar didn’t move forward because it involved the accounts of inmates, versus those of corrections officers.

The report said, “Some of them claimed to have seen the takedown, some to have seen the completion of the escort to the medical building and some to have seen both. The only point of complete agreement in all these statements is that Ms. Weimar seemed to be 'unconscious' while being taken from the point of the takedown to the medical building.”

Bennett-Austin said she believes the investigators found corrections officers to be more credible than the inmates who were incarcerated. She believes the State Attorney's Office should have taken the case to trial.

“This should have been decided in a court of law with a jury of people not affected by anyone, they don’t know anyone. They’re just going into a courtroom to hear the facts. That’s how it should have been decided,” Bennett-Austin said.

ABC Action News contacted a spokesperson for the state attorney’s office and requested an on-camera interview, but he declined. Turner is still awaiting trial on those unrelated charges.

If you have a story you’d like the I-Team to investigate, email us at adam@abcactionnews.com.