By Thomas Clouse

A jury on Friday convicted a former Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy of lying to fraudulently obtain assistance from two federal programs designed to provide funds for those who can’t work for themselves.

Former Spokane County Sheriff’s jailer Donald B. Henderson was found guilty of stealing money for more than a decade from the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The jury acquitted Henderson on a charge of committing Social Security fraud but found him guilty of theft of money from Social Security, making false statements to the VA and theft of money from the VA.

“The jury did a good job on a difficult case and returned a just verdict,” said acting U.S. Attorney Joseph Harrington.

Defense attorneys declined to comment after the verdict. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 12.

The jury found Henderson guilty of lying to obtain more than $650,000 in benefits from both the Veterans Benefits and Social Security administrations, which had been paying him since he signed off on eye exams in 2002 that claimed to show he was legally blind and could not work.

In the course of some of those eye exams, Henderson said he could not read any letters on the eye chart and could only make out fingers at some 6 feet.

However, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick Cashman and Stephanie Lister provided the jury hours of video showing Henderson driving a riding lawn mower and taking an undercover agent shooting. Henderson was able to tell the agent where his bullets were hitting a paper target more than 20 feet away.

“These programs are not for people who barbecue and play Frisbee with his dog,” Lister said in her closing statement. “He’s a liar and he’s a thief, and the government asks you to convict him on all counts.”

Federal defenders John “Jay” McIntire and Colin Prince argued that Henderson for decades has suffered from a traumatic brain injury that caused debilitating migraines. He also suffers from a thinning of the cornea that makes it impossible for him to obtain prescription glasses that can improve his vision, which varies depending on his recurring headaches.

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