top of page
  • Writer's pictureSam Orlando

Outrage Over Lenient Sentence for Federal Prison Official in Virginia Inmate's Death


Written by: Michael Phillips



Inmate's Tragic Death Exposes Systemic Failures in Federal Prison

PETERSBURG, VIRGINIA - In a recent sentencing that has ignited public outcry, Michael Anderson, a former high-ranking guard at a federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia, received a three-year prison sentence for his role in the death of an inmate. This decision has raised serious questions about accountability within the prison system.


Anderson, 52, was the lieutenant and second-highest ranking officer at the medium-security facility when the incident occurred in 2021. The inmate, identified as W.W., suffered a severe medical emergency, characterized by incoherence and an inability to stand.


Details from U.S. Attorney's Office Press Release:

According to a press release from the United States Attorney's Office, court documents revealed that on January 9 and 10, 2021, Anderson was responsible for the care of federal inmates. On January 9, after being notified of W.W.'s medical emergency, Anderson observed the symptoms but failed to seek medical assistance. Despite being informed the next day of W.W.'s fall, Anderson still did not obtain help. Tragically, W.W. lay dead or dying for over an hour and a half before any intervention, and life-saving efforts ultimately failed.


This case was investigated by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General. The prosecution was led by Special Litigation Counsel Kathryn E. Gilbert, Trial Attorney Matthew Tannenbaum of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Garnett for the Eastern District of Virginia.


A Case of Neglect and Indifference

Prosecutors argued that Anderson, along with other prison staff, neglected their duty to respond to the situation, leading to W.W.'s death from blunt force trauma to the head. Anderson's guilty plea to one count of deprivation of civil rights and the subsequent lenient sentence have sparked widespread outrage, highlighting discrepancies in the justice system.


Anderson's Argument

Anderson's attorney, Jessica Richardson, defended him by pointing out the systemic failure involving multiple staff members and his otherwise exemplary service record. However, the leniency of his sentence compared to the severity of the crime has many questioning the effectiveness of accountability measures in the federal prison system.


The case has amplified calls for a thorough investigation into prison practices and the establishment of stricter accountability measures. The death of W.W. serves as a painful reminder of the urgent need for justice and reform, especially for those entrusted with the care of incarcerated individuals.


Editor's Note: The Court documents in the prosecution of Anderson intentionally anonymize the victim. The only reason we are not including the victim's name in this article is to respect the family's wishes.

bottom of page