A Peoria County jury took about four hours Jan. 30 to acquit a Peoria County correctional officer of improperly striking an inmate last year.
Trenton D. Gustafson, 29, of Chillicothe had been charged with two misdemeanor battery charges in connection with the Feb. 2, 2012, incident involving Anthony Stacey, 31, of Peoria.
Stacey was booked into the county jail for an incident involving a battery.
It’s undisputed that Gustafson struck Stacey, but the correctional officer told jurors during the three-day trial that he had to use force because Stacey was being combative and would not comply with his orders to be searched for contraband.
Prosecutors played a videotape in court that showed Gustafson wrestling with Stacey. The tape starts with Gustafson searching Stacey. Then Stacey apparently threw his shoes and allegedly made a move toward Gustafson as if he was going to attack him.
Gustafson then took Stacey to the ground. Other officers rushed in, and the videotape shows a struggle to handcuff Stacey. It also shows Gustafson striking Stacey three or four times in the head.
Stacey was not charged criminally with whatever brought him to the jail that night, according to records at the Peoria County Circuit Clerk’s office.
After the verdict was announced, Gustafson who has been on unpaid leave since March, said he would seek to recover his lost wages. Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Joe Needham said a hearing would likely be held soon within the department to address alleged policy violations.
Needham said Gustafson is accused of “conduct unbecoming a deputy or employee which would tend to bring discredit to the sheriff’s office” and “willful mistreatment of any persons including members of the general public, coworkers and individuals in custody.”
Any punishment that comes out of that hearing could range from a suspension to possible termination from the department, he said. Gustafson, a four-year veteran of the department, has not been disciplined in the past, according to the Sheriff’s Department.