2 federal inmates guilty of killing fellow Atlanta inmate

Two federal inmates were convicted of killing another inmate in a racially motivated attack, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Tuesday.

A federal jury convicted Donald R. LaFond, 53, and Jason Robert Widdison, 35, of second-degree murder in the 2011 death of an inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates’ office said. LaFond and Widdison, members of white supremacist prison gangs, attacked the white inmate for refusing to protest his black cellmate, according to investigators.

“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.”

LaFond and Widdison were exercising on March 1, 2011, when another inmate joined them and attempted to talk to them, Yates’ office said.

Minutes later, Lafond and Widdison began to punch the victim from both front and behind, knocking the victim to the ground, according to witnesses. Both Lafond and Widdison then stomped on the victim’s head and neck, as many as 10 times each, investigators said.

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, of New Bedford, Mass., and Widdison, of Morgan, Utah, 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 was not released.