Assistant District Attorney Dan May is adamant that his case against Douglas Eugene Wilson, an El Paso County prisoner convicted of giving cheese sandwiches to fellow inmates, was absolutely necessary.
Wilson, 45, was sentenced to three years in prison because the sandwiches, made with processed American cheese, were considered contraband at Metro Detention Center -- even though they were provided to him by sheriff's deputies.
Interviewed at the jail last week, Wilson -- already in jail for life without the possibility for parole -- says May wasted taxpayer time and money because there was nothing to be gained from prosecuting him.
"It's not like I'm going anywhere anytime soon," Wilson said. "It's ludicrous, but it's real."
Time in court
Wilson, who was previously homeless before his arrest, was found guilty for the 2001 murder of a homeless woman.
In the subsequent cheese sandwich prosecution, May indicated he spent roughly two hours working on the case, with a paralegal putting in 30 minutes worth of time for research. In addition, he said, two deputies spent time on the case while court was in session.
The assistant district attorney was unable to provide a more detailed breakdown of the associated costs to taxpayers in response to an open records request.
But in an interview, May defended his decision to prosecute on the cheese sandwich charge.
"We could have gone to trial," he said. Had he taken the case before a jury on more serious charges of assault, May said, it might have taken several days and cost taxpayers even more money. "We chose not to."
Instead, Wilson was offered a plea bargain for handing out contraband sandwiches. Wilson said he accepted the plea because he wanted to put the matter behind him.
Sharing the largesse
In March, a deputy caught Wilson trying to provide sandwiches to a group of inmates who were facing sanctions on the items they could have in their cells in the aftermath of a "shakedown." But Wilson, according to a probable cause affidavit filed by Deputy Sheriff Eric J. Carnell, persisted in his attempts to hand out sandwiches, describing them as "some hoe ass shit."
Wilson said he couldn't fathom why deputies wanted to prevent him from giving the sandwiches to other inmates.
"They kept giving these tea sandwiches to me, despite me telling them I don't eat them," Wilson said. "I thought someone else might want them. Some of these guys are extremely hungry."
Carnell aimed, and then fired, a Taser electric stun gun at Wilson after he charged a deputy, according to the affidavit. Wilson disputes that account and says he charged only after he saw the Taser's red laser beam on his chest.
"I didn't want to be juiced with 50,000 volts," he said.
One of the Taser's two probes missed Wilson, failing to shock him. His skin was punctured by a Taser probe and he received several abrasions when deputies restrained him, he said.
Bernard Gilligan, one of Wilson's fellow inmates, appreciated Wilson's attempt to deliver sandwiches. Gilligan said he was in "the hole" at the time and had to make do with whatever deputies brought to him.
"Sometimes there would be finger imprints in our food or hair," he said in an interview at the jail. "I'd try to return the food, but they would say, 'Eat what you got.' Doug was looking out for us."
-- Michael de Yoanna