Last Two Former Mississippi Officers in Racially Charged ‘Goon Squad’ Case to Be Sentenced

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Former Richland Police Officer Joshua Hartfield and former Rankin County Deputy Brett McAlpin, two of six Mississippi law enforcement officers who pleaded guilty in the torture of two black men in 2023, will be sentenced on Thursday.

The federal hearings in Jackson will cap three emotional days during which vivid accounts of the horrific brutality of a self-described “Goon Squad” of agents gripped a packed courtroom.

Descriptions have been described of a nightmarish beating, torture, sexual assault and even a racially motivated mock execution when victims came face to face with their tormentors. The rogue former officers face prison terms for what the FBI director described as “heinous” acts of “pure hell.”

A judge on Wednesday imposed the harshest sentence so far – 40 years in prison – to former Rankin County Sheriff’s Deputy Christian Dedmon, saying he committed the most “shocking, brutal and cruel acts imaginable.”

Another former MP, Daniel Opdyke, was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison on Wednesday morning.

Two former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies, Hunter Elward and Jeffrey Middleton, were sentenced Tuesday. Elward, who shot Michael Jenkins in the mouth, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and given an emotional apology to victims in court. Middleton was sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison.

Rogelio V. Solís/AP

Michael Corey Jenkins, left, and Eddie Terrell Parker enter the Thad Cochran United States Courthouse in Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday.

In total, six former officers pleaded guilty in AugustThere are federal charges of conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights under color of law, conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice. Elward also pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm during a violent crime.

The men were part of a squad of white Mississippi law enforcement officers who raided a home in Braxton in January 2023 without a warrant, subjected the two black men, Eddie Parker and Jenkins, to racist vitriol, used Tasers on them afterward. They were handcuffed, beaten with various objects, and Jenkins was shot in the mouth.

Former officers left Jenkins on the ground to bleed as they placed a gun on the victims and plotted their cover story, officials said.

“This is a remarkable and historic moment for the state of Mississippi and the United States of America and for the victims of police brutality and abuse,” victims’ attorney Malik Shabazz told reporters Wednesday.

In addition to their federal charges, the six defendants also pleaded guilty last year to a group of state positions Therefore, they are awaiting sentencing in relation to the incident.

Rogelio V. Solís/AP

Former Rankin County Deputy Christian Dedmon in Rankin County Circuit Court in Brandon, Mississippi, on August 14, 2023.

Shabazz has described Dedmon as “oppressive” and “sick.” Federal prosecutors said Dedmon is the most sexually perverted of the former officers and subjected victims to the most egregious sexual acts.

Prosecutors said Dedmon, 29, organized and participated in “countless missions” in which he “was not at all afraid of using excessive force.” Despite his relatively young age, Dedmon “had experience not doing what he was doing” and “hid behind his badge and his gun,” a prosecutor said.

“(Dedmon’s) acts are atrocious, serious and lawless,” the prosecutor said.

The disgraced former deputy addressed the court before handing down his sentence but, unlike the three former police officers who preceded him, he did not directly address the victims or make eye contact.

“The lies, the pain I caused them, I will never forgive myself. If I could get everything back, I promise. I got into law enforcement not like a demon. I really wanted to make a difference,” Dedmon said.

Melvin Jenkins, Jenkins’ father, said after Dedmon was sentenced: “I have lived in Mississippi for 68 years and I have never seen justice like this.” He thanked federal Judge Tom Lee and said the prison sentence was “unheard of” in the state.

Dedmon was also sentenced Wednesday on a different charge than the one he had pleaded guilty to: a federal count of deprivation of rights under color of law and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence related to a separate incident in December 2022. .

In August, the U.S. Department of Justice said the 2022 charges stemmed from “an incident on December 4, 2022, in which Dedmon punched and Tasered a white male and fired a gun near his head to force him to confess.”

Rogelio V. Solís/AP

From top left, former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon, Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton, Daniel Opdyke and former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield.

Before his 17-year prison sentence was imposed on Wednesday, a visibly emotional Opdyke addressed the court and victims directly as he sobbed, wiped away tears and paused during his statement.

“I cannot understand how I so easily fell in line, accepting and actively participating in the use of excessive force against Mr. Parker and Mr. Jenkins,” Opdyke said. Then he turned to Parker, who was crying with her head between her legs.

“Nothing I say can undo the harm I caused you,” Opdyke told Parker during his court testimony. “I can only take full responsibility for my actions and I am deeply sorry for all the pain and suffering I have caused you.”

Parker, crying, got up and left the room with her aunt.

The judge also ordered Opdyke to undergo mental health treatment, including anger management, as well as alcohol and drug treatment. The former deputy was also ordered to pay $79,500 in restitution to the victims.

Opdyke’s attorneys requested a seven-year sentence because of the extensive physical and sexual abuse they say he suffered as a child at the hands of his father.

“His story of abandonment by both parents, his own father raped him until he was 8 years old. “Daniel had no memory before he was 8 years old,” said one of Opdyke’s attorneys.

At least several of the disgraced officers – Elward, Middleton and Opdyke – were part of a group of officers who called themselves the “Goon Squad” because of their willingness to use excessive force and not report it, federal prosecutors said. saying in court documents.

During Wednesday’s hearing it was revealed that Opdyke was the officer who handed over text messages from the “Goon Squad” group chat, which was on the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp, to the federal government on April 12, 2023.

Opdyke’s attorney said the information “substantially” aided the investigation and “directly contributed” to the defendants’ decision to plead guilty.

Moments after Parker left the courtroom, the former officer looked at Jenkins and spoke directly: “Mr. Jenkins, I failed you too. “I hit you and tried to put a sex toy in your mouth,” he said.

“I know that after that night, you will never be the same again. “I could have tried to stop him, but I didn’t,” she continued.

Jenkins looked forward as Opdyke burst into tears. She didn’t show any emotion. The victim’s lawyer put his arm around him.

Opdyke apologized to his victims.

“I wholeheartedly regret my actions and I hope that each of you can find it in your hearts to forgive me,” Opdyke said. “Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Parker were innocent victims and I was the perpetrator.”

The former deputy walked away sobbing, his face red and his gaze downcast, with shackles around his waist and wrists.

‘An hour and a half of hell’

02:38 – Source: CNN

Why the victim forgave the former officer accused of torturing him

On Tuesday, two former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies, Hunter Elward and Jeffrey Middleton, were sentenced.

Elward, who shot Jenkins in the mouth, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and given an emotional apology to victims in court. Middleton was sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison.

“Mr. Jenkins, I see you every day and every night. I’m so sorry,” Elward said.

“You can’t know what you’ve seen. I’m very sorry for causing that. I hate myself for that. I hate that I gave you that. “I accept all responsibility.”

Jenkins nodded. Parker stood up and responded, “We forgive you, man.”

However, after the hearing, Jenkins told CNN that Elward’s apology “meant nothing” to him.

Middleton, in sentencing, told the court he accepted responsibility for his actions.

“I made some very bad decisions that changed my life. They were morally and legally wrong,” he said, apologizing to Jenkins, Parker and their families, as well as his family and the people of Rankin County. He was the supervisor the night of the attacks.

In her victim impact statement, read by Shabazz, Parker said she did not believe Middleton was remorseful.

Officers went to the home in Braxton in January 2023 after a neighbor reported that several black men were staying at a white woman’s home and reported seeing suspicious behavior.

Without a search warrant, agents “kicked down the door of a home where two black men were staying and subjected them to an hour and a half of hell,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said.

Parker was “an old friend” of the White house owner, according to federal prosecutors. He lived in the house and helped take care of it. Jenkins temporarily lived in the house.

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