ATLANTA — A Channel 2 viewer's tip about a federal prison lockdown led us to an inmate who was using a cellphone inside his prison cell for a Facebook Live.
Prison officials told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne that they tracked down the inmate. Now, they are trying to track down how he got that phone.
U.S. Attorney Bjay Pak said after we sent Facebook Live posts from a possible prisoner in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary to his office in an attempt to identify the inmate, his team launched an investigation and now they’ve brought a criminal charge against the inmate.
Jeff Davis is the chief of the public integrity section for the U.S. Attorney's Office and confirmed to Winne that inmate Brian Wilson allegedly live streamed to Facebook Live from inside his cell.
“He’s in prison for possessing a stolen firearm,” Davis said.
If convicted of the new charge, Wilson faces up to a year added to the sentence he's already serving.
“Mr. Wilson’s original sentence was 10 years in prison,” Davis told Winne.
It is a crime for an inmate to have a cellphone in a federal prison.
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“We on that lockdown again. They let us shop a little bit, though,” Wilson said during the Facebook Live. “A message to all you little kids, man: Don’t do drugs. Sell drugs. Steal guns, stay away from the guns, especially if you’re a convicted felon, because the federal law ain’t playing.”
In another part of the video, Wilson says: “The United States will lock your (expletive) up -- will lock your (expletive) up.”
A charging document says from about late May to July of this year, “Wilson used a cellphone to post images to and to live stream content on to a social media platform from his prison cell."
Channel 2’s investigative team found a number of videos from Wilson.
“We starting a GoFundMe fund for my cellie, man. Look at him. He dried up, he hungry,” Wilson said on one of the streams.
“Tell my brother that I’m getting my HVAC degree in here,” he said in another.
Davis told Winne that he, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tippi Burch and the FBI continue to investigate Wilson’s cellphone use.
“We will investigate how contraband is smuggled into any federal prison,” Davis said.
The prosecutor said the message is, if you use a cellphone in prison, you could wind up with more cell time in a federal pen.
“Well, listen y’all. I got to get off of here because they might be walking around and you know what I mean? And I got a special somebody waiting on me to call,” Wilson said in one of the Facebook Live sessions.
Pak said an inmate having contraband such as a cellphone in federal prison commits a misdemeanor. He told Winne that he feels that should be toughened.
Under Georgia law, an inmate in a state prison with a cellphone is committing a felony.
Pak said while it’s not alleged in this case, phones in prison facilitate violence and fraud and pose a danger to staff and inmates.