MUNCIE — “Guilty, your honor.”
Former Muncie Police Officer Chase Winkle is now a convicted man after admitting in court Monday to using excessive force on suspects and writing false reports in an attempt to cover it up.
A federal judge accepted Winkle’s plea agreement Monday in which he pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts.
No counts were dismissed.
Winkle admitted to kicking, punching, knee striking and using a taser on several suspects which resulted in injuries to those people.
In court Monday, Winkle acknowledged he kicked and kneed Manny Montero in the head following a traffic stop in May 2018.
"I was scared. I thought I was going to die,” Montero said in 2021. “I thought they were going to kill me. I'd never been so scared in my life."
Montero says he suffered facial fractures and broken ribs.
“I'm not an angel. But I don't deserve what happened to me,” Montero told WRTV in April 2021. “I was taking my brother to the store to get a soda, that's it. I don't think anybody deserves to get beat up by police."
Winkle had nothing to say on his way into federal court Monday when WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney asked if he had anything to say to the community or if he was sorry for his actions.
“This is the first step in the process of accepting responsibility and moving on for Mr. Winkle so we would request that you respect his privacy at this time,” said Winkle’s attorney Jonathan Bont.
Winkle will be sentenced on March 3 at 9 am.
He faces more than 100 years in prison, however, because he pleaded guilty and is accepting responsibility, it is likely he will receive a more lenient sentence.
The maximum penalty for the deprivation-of-rights offenses is 10 years prison and the maximum penalty for false report offenses is 20 years of imprisonment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The plea agreement does not detail Winkle’s sentence, but federal prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence at the low end of the advisory sentencing guidelines range.
Under federal law, a defendant’s sentencing guidelines range is advisory, not mandatory, according to The U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“At the defendant’s sentencing hearing, the district court judge will determine the sentence to be imposed after taking into account the advisory guidelines and the other federal sentencing factors,” said Steven Whitaker, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in an email to WRTV.
Winkle was fired from the Muncie Department last month after he admitted to the charges.
He had been suspended without pay since February 11, 2020 pending the outcome of the criminal cases filed against him.
Chase Winkle is the son of former police chief Joe Winkle, who stepped down at the end of 2019.
The Muncie Police Department issued a news release to WRTV condemning Winkle’s actions.
“The Muncie Police Department does not condone the kind of tactics that were outlined in the plea agreement,” said Chief Nathan Sloan in a statement to WRTV. “These actions do not reflect what the Muncie Police Department stands for or should have stood for at the time of occurrence.”
WRTV Investigates received a response from Winkle’s attorneys regarding his termination.
"Mr. Winkle’s separation from the Muncie Police Department was expected upon filing his Petition to Enter a Plea of Guilty," Winkle's attorneys said in a statement to WRTV. "Mr. Winkle’s focus is on concluding the criminal case, serving his sentence, and getting back to his family."
Where do the other Muncie officer trials stand?
The case against Sgt. Joseph Krejsa, a former Muncie Police Officer, is still pending. Krejsa is scheduled for a jury trial on January 13, 2023.
Sgt. Joseph Krejsa is accused of knowingly falsifying two reports in relation to Chase Winkle’s use of force.
Current Muncie police officer Corey Posey is charged with one count of False Report, a felony, and faces up to 20 years in prison.
A new trial date has not yet been set for Posey.
The allegations against Corey Posey stem from a 2018 incident in which Posey is accused of writing a report that implied suspect Lonnie Gannom failed to comply with commands.
Posey omitted from the report his colleague, Officer Chase Winkle, struck Gannom’s head and neck with his knee and also omitted that Winkle caused Gannom’s injuries, the indictment read.
As he awaits federal trial for false reporting, he is still collecting a paycheck from the police department, WRTV Investigates has learned.
Patrolman Corey Posey has been with the department since 2018 and his salary is $56,386 or $27.11 per hour, records show.
WRTV Investigates has requested body camera footage of the 2018 incident several times, but the police department has yet to provide it.
In September 2020, the request was denied "due to pending investigations." In September 2021, WRTV Investigates filed another records request for the body camera footage, which is still pending.
Former Muncie Police Department Officer Jeremy Gibson already pleaded guilty in May 2022 to two felony charges connected with excessive force and covering it up.
Gibson will be sentenced on February 8.
Officer Dalton Kurtz resigned from the department and pleaded guilty to writing false reports.