INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Former Muncie police officer Chase Winkle emerged from a federal courtroom on Monday a convicted felon.
The 35-year-old Winkle pleaded guilty as charged to 11 charges pending against him in U.S. District Court - five counts of depriving arrestees of their constitutional rights by physically abusing them, and six counts of obstruction of justice.
The obstruction charges stem from allegations Winkle filed fraudulent police reports about those arrests, in most cases falsely claiming the arrestees were resisting at the time he struck or kicked them.
During Monday's hearing, Katherine G. DeVar, a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice's civil rights division, read aloud summaries of Winkle's attacks on the arrestees, which took place in 2018 and 2019.
One of the victims - referred to in court only by their initials - suffered facial fractures that required surgery, she said.
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In a press release last year, the U.S. Attorney's office said Winkle's actions included "kicking, punching, knee-striking, and using a taser on arrestees without justification, (resulting) in bodily injury to the arrestees."
After each incident was recounted on Monday, Winkle told U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt that the allegations against him were true.
Pratt called the counts against the former Muncie officer "very serious felony charges."
She ruled Winkle could remain free pending a March 3 sentencing hearing.
Federal sentencing guidelines referred to Monday appeared to reflect the Muncie man could anticipate a prison sentence of between eight and 10 years. However, the judge is not required to adhere to those guidelines.
Winkle - who had been on unpaid leave since he was arrested on the federal charges in early 2020 - was fired by the Muncie Police Merit Commission on Nov. 17, after Police Chief Nate Sloan became aware of admissions Winkle had made in signing a plea agreement in the federal case.
Sloan became police chief in January 2020. When Winkle battered the arrestees in 2018 and 2019, his father, Joseph Winkle, was the department's chief.
In a release issued after Monday's hearing, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, of the Justice Department's civil rights division, noted Winkle had "confessed to repeated uses of excessive force and obstruction."
"This defendant's misconduct injured his victims and undermined the police department's credibility with the community," Clarke said. "We hope that this guilty plea sends a message that neither a badge nor familial connections will shield an officer from facing justice for his wrongdoing."
U.S. Attorney Zachary Myers said Monday's guilty pleas were "an important step forward as we seek justice for the victims in this case,."
Two other city officers - Joseph Krejsa, who is now retired, and Corey Posey - remain charged with filing false reports stemming from arrests that led to the battery allegations.
Douglas Walker is a news reporter at The Star Press. Contact him at 765-213-5851 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Muncie Star Press: Ex-officer Winkle pleads guilty to battering arrestees