Final 2 former Mississippi officers in racially charged ‘Goon Squad’ case to be sentenced |

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CNN
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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 an emotional three days during which vivid accounts of the horrifying brutality of a self-styled “Goon Squad” of deputies gripped a packed courtroom.

Descriptions of a nightmare of racially motivated beatings, torture, sexual assaults and even a mock execution have played out as victims came face-to-face with their tormentors. The rogue former officers face prison terms for what the FBI director described as “atrocious” acts of “pure hell.”

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

Another former deputy, Daniel Opdyke, was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison earlier Wednesday.

Two former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies, Hunter Elward and Jeffrey Middleton, were sentenced on Tuesday. Elward, who shot Michael Jenkins in the mouth, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and gave an emotional apology to the victims in court. Middleton was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison.

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

In all, six former officers pleaded guilty in August to 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 discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence.

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 after they had already been handcuffed, beat them with various objects and shot Jenkins in the mouth.

The former officers left Jenkins on the floor to bleed as they planted 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 victims of police brutality and police abuse,” the victims’ attorney, Malik Shabazz, told reporters Wednesday.

In addition to their federal charges, the six defendants also pleaded guilty last year to a bevy of state charges for which they await sentencing in connection with the incident.

Former Rankin County deputy Christian Dedmon at the 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 to use excessive force.” Despite his relatively young age, Dedmon “had the experience not to do what he was doing” and “hid behind his badge and gun,” one prosecutor said.

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

The disgraced former deputy addressed the court before sentencing but – unlike the three ex-cops before him – he did not address the victims directly or make eye contact.

“The lies, the pain I caused them, I will never forgive myself for. If I could take everything back, I promise that I would. I got into law enforcement not as a devil. I really wanted to make a difference,” Dedmon said.

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

Dedmon was also sentenced Wednesday on a different charge to which he’d pleaded guilty – a federal charge of deprivation of rights under the color of law and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence related to a separate incident in December 2022.

In August, the US Justice Department said the 2022 charges stemmed from “an incident on Dec. 4, 2022, in which Dedmon beat and tased a white man and fired a gun near his head to coerce a confession.”

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 term was imposed Wednesday, a visibly emotional Opdyke addressed the court and the victims directly as he sobbed, wiped away tears and paused throughout his statement to them.

“I cannot fathom how I fell so easily in line, going along with and actively participating in the use of excessive force against Mr. Parker and Mr. Jenkins,” Opdyke said. He then turned to Parker, who was crying with his head between his legs.

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

Parker, in tears, stood up and walked out of the courtroom with his aunt.

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

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

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

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

It was revealed during Wednesday’s hearing that Opdyke was the officer who turned over the 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 that information “substantially” assisted the investigation and “directly contributed” to the defendants’ decision to plead guilty.

Moments after Parker walked out of the courtroom, the former officer looked at Jenkins and spoke to him directly: “Mr. Jenkins, I also failed you. I hit you and tried to force a sex toy in your mouth,” he said.

“I know that after that night, you will never be the same. I could’ve tried to stop it, but I didn’t,” he continued.

Jenkins stared ahead as Opdyke broke down in tears. He showed no emotion. The victim’s attorney wrapped his arm around him.

Opdyke asked his victims for forgiveness.

“I regret my actions wholeheartedly, and I hope 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 ex-deputy walked away sobbing, red in the face and looking down, shackles around his waist and wrists.

‘An hour and a half of hell’

– Source:
CNN
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Why victim forgave ex-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 gave an emotional apology to the victims in court. Middleton was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison.

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

“There’s no telling what you’ve seen. I’m so sorry that I caused that. I hate myself for it. I hate that I gave you that. I accept all responsibility.”

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

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

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

“I made some very poor, life-changing decisions. 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 his victim impact statement, read by Shabazz, Parker said he didn’t think Middleton was sorry.

The officers went to the home in Braxton in January 2023 after a neighbor reported several Black men were staying at a White woman’s home and reported seeing suspicious behavior.

Without a search warrant, officers “kicked in 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 “a long-time friend” of the White homeowner, according to federal prosecutors. He was living at the home and helping take care of her. Jenkins was living at the home temporarily.

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