30-year prison sentence for inmate who attacked correctional officer

MARIANNA – An inmate who critically injured a correctional officer by picking him up and throwing him to the concrete was sentenced to 30 years in prison Tuesday, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Joshua J. Lawson, 28, who was housed at the Graceville Correctional Facility, was found guilty Tuesday of Aggravated Battery of a Law Enforcement Officer. CO Capt. Matthew Sanders suffered a fractured hip when he was thrown from approximately 5 feet in the air to the ground on March 18, 2021. On April 7, 2021, while home recovering from his injuries, Capt. Sanders suffered an embolism and died.

The defendant was in the facility serving a 10-year sentence for four 2016 offenses in Broward County – 2 counts of Robbery with a Deadly Weapon, 1 count of Attempted Robbery with a Deadly Weapon, and Grand Theft Motor Vehicle.

Jackson County Chief Prosecutor Shalla Jefcoat called 6 witnesses and presented evidence showing that on March 18, 2021, the defendant was verbally disrespectful to staff and refusing to follow rules and staff orders.

RELATED NEWS: Man guilty of sexually battering woman at gunpoint

RELATED NEWS: Vernon man guilty of setting fire to same SUV twice in 1 month

The defendant refused orders to submit to handcuffs. Testimony showed the defendant swung at Capt. Sanders when he attempted to apply hand restraints. During the ensuing struggle, the defendant was able to grab Capt. Sanders by the lower torso, pick him up and throw him to the concrete.

Other correctional staff then subdued the defendant.

Basford said his prayers remain with Capt. Sanders’ family and loved ones. He thanked all the staff at the Correctional Facility for the work they do, and the Florida Department of Corrections for its investigation.

For more information, contact Mike Cazalas at mike.cazalas@sa14.fl.gov, or call 850-381-7454.