A high-level executive at the nation’s second-largest private prison corporation testified under oath that it would not be wrong to give false testimony to a federal agency, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a video recently posted on YouTube. The testimony came in a case alleging that GEO Group Senior Vice President of Project Development Thomas Wierdsma threatened to use his position at GEO to have his then daughter-in-law’s immigration status investigated by ICE if she spoke out about domestic abuse.
ATTORNEY: You would agree it would be wrong to give false testimony against somebody, correct?
WIERDSMA: Um [long pause]. Yes.
ATTORNEY: Similarly, would it be wrong to give false testimony to a federal agency?
WIERDSMA: No, not at all. Happens all the time.
GEO runs more than 100 prison facilities around the world, and cites ICE as its largest client. Since this testimony, his former daughter-in-law, Beatrix Szeremi, won a $1.2 million jury award (later reduced by a judge) in her case against Wierdsma and his son alleging witness tampering, intimidation, and retaliation. Szeremi’s complaint said Wierdsma had engaged in “attempts to trigger a sham deportation proceeding… designed by him to interfere with her ability to testify against his son” about his attempts to beat, drown and choke her. An email quoted in the complaint from Wierdsma to Szeremi, who is a permanent legal resident born in Hungaria, says:
I understand that you currently have no plans to move out of our home. I will be copying the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement with this and other information. As you know, I funded the legal work and processing fees for you to become a citizen, but am now disappointed in your actions which now require legal proceedings.
Wierdsma continues in his capacity at GEO as a senior vice president. GEO Group and its subsidiary GEO Care have faced fines for “serious shortcomings in patient care” at its mental health facilities and has been the subject of numerous reports of juvenile abuse, deaths, and riots. A federal judge even found that the group had “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk” at a juvenile detention facility.