The sentencing for the six Mississippi law enforcement officers involved in the beating, torturing, and sexual assault of two Black men has been postponed once again by a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Tom Lee on Friday ruled that the officers would not be sentenced this month as previously scheduled, but they will be appearing in court in March.
Judge Lee delayed the sentencing the first time around in early November to give attorneys more time to prepare objections and look over presentencing reports.
The sentencings for the former officers will proceed as follows:
- Hunter Elward — March 19
- Jeffrey Middleton — March 19
- Christian Dedmon — March 20
- Daniel Opdyke — March 20
- Josh Hartfield — March 21
- Brett McAlpin — March 21
In August, five Rankin County deputies and one Richland officer pled guilty to abusing two Black men during a warrantless raid that resulted in the torture and sexual assault of Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker on January 24, 2023.
The officers involved in the incident include Brett McAlpin, 52, Daniel Updyke, 27, Jeffrey Middleton, 45, Joshua Hartfield, 31, Leonard Hunter Elward, 31, and Christian Dedmon, 28.
All six officers have pled guilty to 13 federal felony offenses and have been issued charges including civil rights conspiracy, deprivation of rights under color of law, discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and obstruction of justice.
Three of the defendants have also admitted in court that they were members of “The Goon Squad,” a group of RCSO officers who were known for using excessive force and not reporting it.
The five deputies and one officer are currently facing state charges that range between five to 15 years in prison for each offense, but the federal sentencing is set to be determined within the next two months.
McAlpin, 52, pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution in the first degree and conspiracy to hinder prosecution in the first degree. The judge accepted McAlpin’s plea, but set sentencing at an unspecified future date. The maximum sentence is 15 years for hindering prosecution in the first degree and five years for conspiracy to hinder prosecution.
Middelton, 45, pleaded guilty to charges of hindering prosecution in the first degree and conspiracy to hinder prosecution. Middleton will be sentenced at an unspecified date in the future. Prosecutors say he was the supervisor of the second shift and gave it the infamous title of “Goon Squad.” The attorney general’s office recommends he faces 15 years with seven years suspended for hindering prosecution and five years for conspiracy.
Dedmon, 28, pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and home invasion with intent to terrorize, as well as conspiracy to hinder prosecution. The former deputy fired his weapon out the back door of the Braxton residence to intimidate Jenkins and Terrell. Dedmon also poured liquids, including chocolate syrup and milk onto the victims and later attempted to clean up the scene of the abuse. The officer also filed a false police report, charging the victims with crimes they did not commit. The AG recommended 15 years with five years suspended for home invasion and five years for conspiracy.
Elward, 31, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a firearm, criminal home invasion to terrorize, and conspiracy. The deputy placed his gun into Jenkins’ mouth after secretly taking a bullet from the chamber and pulling the trigger. The unloaded gun clicked but did not fire. He then racked the slide, intending to dry-fire a second time, but the gun discharged when he pulled the trigger again. The gunshot left Jenkins with a broken jaw, lacerated tongue, and severe wounds in his neck. Elward faces 20 years with five years suspended for aggravated assault, 15 years with five years suspended for home invasion, and five years for conspiracy.
Opdyke, 27, pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution in the first degree and conspiracy to commit hindering prosecution in the first degree. The former deputy also sexually abused the two men by forcibly inserting a device that was mounted onto a BB gun into their mouths. He was also responsible for tasing the victims and kicking them in the ribs. Opdyke faces 15 years with 10 years suspended for hindering prosecution and five years for conspiracy.
Hartfield, 31, pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution in the first degree and conspiracy to hinder prosecution. The former Richland police officer was the only member involved in the January incident who did not work for the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office. Hartfield was involved in beating and using his taser to stun the two Black men. He faces 15 years with 10 years suspended for hindering prosecution and five years for conspiracy.
Timeline of Events
According to statements by Jenkins and Parker, the deputies forcibly entered the Braxton residence without presenting a warrant on January 24, 2023.
Both men were immediately handcuffed before Dedmon, Elward, Hartfield, and Middleton began stunning Jenkins and Parker with Tasers, with the first Taser being used at 10:04 p.m. Documents show Tasers being turned on, off, or used over a dozen times for approximately 65 minutes after the first Taser was fired.
In total, the incident is estimated to have lasted for around two hours, with Dedman said to have waterboarded the two men with milk, chocolate syrup, and alcohol while Elward held Jenkins and Parker down.
Reports also state that Opdyke orally assaulted Parker and Jenkins with a sex toy before Dedmon threatened to anally rape the two with the object.
Court documents later revealed that Dedmon poured grease over Parker’s head while Elward threw eggs at both men. Parker and Jenkins were then ordered “to strip naked and shower off to wash away evidence of abuse” before Dedmon shot a bullet into the front yard.
Elward then placed the gun in Jenkins’ mouth after secretly taking a bullet from the chamber and pulled the trigger. The unloaded gun clicked but did not fire.
He then racked the slide, intending to dry-fire a second time, but the gun discharged when he pulled the trigger again. The gunshot left Jenkins with a broken jaw, lacerated tongue, and severe wounds in his neck.
Immediately after, the deputies left Jenkins bleeding on the floor to discuss a cover story and dispose of any evidence involved in the shooting. A gun was then planted on Jenkins while officers destroyed the home’s surveillance video footage, spent shell cases, and taser cartridges.
Jenkins was later transported to the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), where his injuries were treated for several weeks.
The officers charged Jenkins with aggravated assault of a police officer and possession of a controlled substance, while Parker was given two misdemeanor charges for disorderly conduct and possession of paraphernalia. Documents show that the deputies planted methamphetamine on the two men before making the arrests.
In addition to filing false reports, the deputies are also being accused of submitting fraudulent drug evidence to the crime lab, making false statements to investigators, and pressuring witnesses to stick to the cover story.
Shortly after, the two men filed suit against the six deputies and demanded $400 million in punitive and compensatory damages from the sheriff’s department.
Jenkins and Parker also accused the officers of attempted murder, false imprisonment, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and six counts of deprivation of civil rights.
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