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6 former Mississippi officers will be sentenced in federal court this week for torturing 2 Black men. Here’s what we know

By Emma Tucker, CNN

(CNN) — Six former Mississippi law enforcement officers who pleaded guilty to state and federal charges stemming from the torture and abuse last year of two Black men, one of whom was shot in the mouth, are set to be sentenced in federal court this week.

The former officers, some of whom federal prosecutors said called themselves “The Goon Squad,” pleaded guilty in August to charges of conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights under color of law, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and obstruction of justice, according to federal court records. They also pleaded guilty the same month to state charges related to the same incident.

The five former Rankin County Sheriff’s deputies, Hunter Elward, Brett McAlpin, Christian Dedmon, Daniel Opdyke, Jeffrey Middleton, as well as former Richland Police Department officer Joshua Hartfield, will be sentenced in Jackson before Southern District of Mississippi US District Court Judge Tom Lee. The proceedings will take place over the course of three days, beginning on Tuesday.

The incident occurred on January 24, 2023, in Braxton, Mississippi, just southeast of Jackson. It came to light after the two victims, Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker, filed a $400 million federal lawsuit. Many of the claims in the lawsuit were reflected in the federal charging document.

The two men said six White law enforcement officers entered the home they were in and tortured them for nearly two hours, culminating with Jenkins being shot in the mouth.

Here’s what we know about the federal sentencing proceedings this week:

Federal prosecutors are seeking maximum sentences

Elward and Middleton will be sentenced on Tuesday; Dedmon and Opdyke on Wednesday; and Hartfield and McAlpin on Thursday.

Jenkins and Parker, along with their lead attorney Malik Shabazz, will speak at a news conference on Monday ahead of the sentencing proceedings. Both men are expected to testify during the proceedings.

The six officers were charged with a combined 13 felonies in connection with “the torture and physical abuse” of the two men, according to the Justice Department.

Some of the officers called themselves “The Goon Squad” because of their willingness to “use excessive force” and not report it, according to a federal charging document.

Shabazz told CNN his team met with the Justice Department on Friday ahead of the sentencing proceedings.

“We will break down each defendant’s possibilities and expectations for criminal Sentencing next week,” Shabazz said in a statement.

“Kristen Clarke, US Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, has just reached out to Michael Jenkins, Eddie Parker and their families,” Shabazz said. “AAG Clark expressed her commitment to civil rights and to eliminating racial intimidation under the color of law in Mississippi. We are deeply appreciative of her department’s historic legal efforts.”

CNN reached out to the attorneys for all six of the former officers for comment but did not receive a response.

Elward faces the most serious of federal charges stemming from the January incident – discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence. He faces up to 30 years in prison, the federal charging document shows.

McAlpin, Middleton, Dedmon, Opdyke and Hartfield each face up to 20 years in prison, according to federal prosecutors.

“He takes responsibility for his part in the horrific harms perpetrated on Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Parker, the victims, and is prepared to face the consequences of his misconduct,” Opdyke’s attorney, Jeffery Reynolds, previously told CNN.

Federal prosecutors are seeking the maximum sentences for the six officers. Details about what the defense attorneys for the six men are seeking in their sentencing proceedings were not immediately available.

3 of the officers face additional charges in separate incident

Three of the officers, Dedmon, Elward and Opdyke, also pleaded guilty in federal court to additional felonies related to a separate incident in December 2022, according to the Justice Department. They will also be sentenced on those charges this week.

All three officers pleaded guilty to deprivation of rights under the color of law. Dedmon also pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, according to court documents.

The Justice Department said in an August news release the charges “arise out of 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.”

Dedmon is accused of assaulting a man, identified as A.S., by “punching, kicking, and tasing him,” according to court documents. He’s also accused of discharging “a firearm in close proximity to A.S. for the purpose of scaring A.S. and coercing a confession,” the brief filing said.

Prosecutors say the other two deputies at the scene refrained from intervening.

If convicted, all three men could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the deprivation of rights charges. Dedmon faces a maximum sentence of life in prison on the weapons charge, according to court documents.

Officers also pleaded guilty to state charges in the same incident

The six former officers also pleaded guilty to state charges against them stemming from the same January 2023 incident, which the victims have claimed was motivated by their race. They await sentencing on the state charges.

Each of the officers were charged with conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, according to a news release from the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office.

Additionally, Dedmon is charged with home invasion and Elward is charged with home invasion and aggravated assault.

McAlpin, Middleton, Opdyke and Hartfield each face an additional charge of first-degree obstruction of justice, the news release says.

How the abuse and shooting unfolded

Jenkins and Parker alleged the officers illegally entered their home and handcuffed, kicked, waterboarded and tased them and attempted to sexually assault them over nearly two hours, before one of the deputies put a gun in Jenkins’ mouth and shot him, according to their lawsuit.

The deputies, “in their repeated use of racial slurs in the course of their violent acts, were oppressive and hateful against their African-American victims,” the lawsuit says. “Defendants were motivated on the basis of race and the color of the skin of the persons they assaulted.”

According to a federal charging document, Dedmon texted Elward, Middleton and Opdyke on January 24 about going to the property in Braxton to resolve a complaint received by McAlpin. McAlpin’s White neighbor told him several Black men were staying at a White woman’s home and reported seeing suspicious behavior.

Dedmon warned the deputies there might be surveillance cameras on the property, telling them to knock on the door instead of kicking it down if they saw any, the document stated. Otherwise, they could barge in without a warrant, the document continued.

“No bad mug shots,” he said, meaning, prosecutors said, the defendants could use excessive force on parts of the body not visible in a mug shot, according to the charging document. Dedmon told the others Hartfield would accompany them.

Avoiding a surveillance camera above the front door, Dedmon, Opdyke and Elward broke open the carport door while Hartfield kicked open the back door, the document stated. They encountered Parker, who was living there to help take care of the woman who owned the property, and his friend Jenkins, who was staying there temporarily.

They were repeatedly tased and called racial slurs, and the officers poured milk, alcohol and chocolate syrup in their mouths. Elward threw eggs at the men, and Dedmon poured grease on Parker’s head, according to the document.

Eventually, Elward removed a bullet from his gun, forced Jenkins onto his knees and put the gun into his mouth. Elward fired the gun, which did not discharge. He racked the slide, put the gun back in Jenkins’ mouth and pulled the trigger again, the document said.

The bullet lacerated Jenkins’ tongue, broke his jaw and went out through his neck.

Jenkins lay bleeding on the floor as the officers convened on the back porch to devise a cover story, the federal charging document said.

The cover story

The officers began to destroy the evidence, according to the charging document. Middleton offered to “plant a ‘throw-down’ gun” he had in his patrol car on Jenkins, the document said. Elward instead planted the BB gun, all while Jenkins was still bleeding and not receiving medical attention.

They discarded one shell casing, and Hartfield threw the men’s soiled clothes into a wooded area and then stole the hard drive from the home’s surveillance system before throwing it into a creek, the document said.

McAlpin and Middleton threatened to kill the four other officers if they ever told the truth about what happened, according to the charging document.

When emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene, Jenkins was taken to a hospital and underwent multiple surgeries. He has suffered permanent physical injuries and cognitive damage, including disfigurement and impairment, according to the lawsuit. Parker also sought medical attention for injuries suffered during the incident, it said.

Each of the six officers filed false reports to corroborate their cover story and continued to abide by the false script in interviews with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, which initially investigated the incident as an officer-involved shooting, according to a January 25 news release from the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.

The news release gave no hint of what the victims would later detail. At the time, local officials said the officers were at the home for drug enforcement activities.

The five Rankin County officers were under the purview of Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey, who is among the named defendants in the lawsuit filed in June. Bailey has filed for qualified immunity in the lawsuit.

Bailey announced in June deputies had been fired, though he did not say how many or their names. The false charges filed against Jenkins and Parker were dropped at the time of the officers’ firing. In July, the Richland Police Department announced Hartfield – who was off-duty at the time of the alleged assault – had resigned.

The sheriff, who does not face any charges, has said he will not resign. In a statement in August, he said he hoped the “guilty pleas bring some sense of justice” to Parker and Jenkins.

Bailey is running unopposed for reelection in November.

During an interview with CNN in June, Jenkins and Parker said they had tried to tell their story in the months leading up to the lawsuit but were often not believed.

As he spoke to CNN inside the house where the incident took place, Parker said, “It’s hard to stand right here, knowing what happened right here. … Justice is what it all boils down to. I’m just like them, you know, whether they are in uniform or not.”

CNN’s Ryan Young, Jade Gordon and Dakin Andone contributed to this report.

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