Former jail Sgt. Shawn Spevacek resigned after charge of assault on inmate
A former corrections sergeant for the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, accused of assaulting two jail inmates last year, pleaded guilty last week to a reduced charge in connection with the incidents.
Shawn Spevacek, a 23-year veteran of the office who resigned last May amid accusations of abuse, originally was charged with two counts of first-degree official misconduct and one count of fourth-degree assault, all misdemeanors.
In a hearing Thursday, special prosecuting attorney David Wilson of the Marion County District Attorney’s Office dropped the official misconduct charges and reduced the assault charge to one count of harassment. In exchange, Spevacek pleaded guilty to the harassment charge.
Spevacek was sentenced to 18 months of bench probation and ordered to complete an anger management course and 60 hours of community service. As part of the plea agreement, he surrendered his Oregon public safety officer certification, which he already had allowed to lapse.
Last spring, a jail employee reported that on April 7, Spevacek grabbed 22-year-old William Gesik of Corvallis by the throat. The two were in a holding cell during inmate processing when Spevacek reportedly grabbed Gesik “to gain compliance.”
After the sheriff’s office performed an internal investigation and determined the accusation had merit, the case was passed to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for an independent investigation. Spevacek was put on paid administrative leave, and then he resigned.
As a result of an investigation by Marion County, Spevacek also was accused of the March 27 assault on a second inmate, Michael Cantrell, who also was held by the throat.
Spevacek’s attorney, Joan Demarest, said that she was prepared to take the case to trial, which had been scheduled for this week.
“I felt like he had a strong case at trial, and we had excellent witnesses that were going to back Spevacek’s actions,” she said.
Demarest said that Spevacek took the plea deal after the prosecutor approached them on Jan. 11 with a “more reasonable offer.”
Prosecutor Dave Wilson was unavailable for comment Monday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Spevacek read a statement at Thursday’s hearing in which he discussed his service to the sheriff’s office and the stress of working every day in the negative atmosphere of a jail. He said that keeping the pressure of the job from his family was a mistake.
“I am here to tell you that by bottling this up and protecting our family from all that goes on in our day, we are doing ourselves and our family a disservice,” he said. “No one — no matter how strong and secure — should contain the daily stress that comes with it. We need to recognize that it is not a sign of weakness to talk about it, process it, to let it go.”
Spevacek did not speak directly about the incidents of March 27 and April 7.
Benton County Sheriff Diana Simpson said that she is glad the case is over.
“The sheriff’s office took action in order to hold itself accountable,” she said. “I’m glad that this matter has been resolved, and that both Mr. Spevacek and the sheriff’s office can now move on.”