2 Black Men Tortured By 6 White Police Officers Set To Speak Today Before Sentencing Hearing

From left, Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker speak to CNN on August 4, 2023. (CNN via CNN Newsource)

By Emma Tucker, CNN

(CNN) — Eddie Parker and Michael Jenkins said they were often not believed when they tried, for months, to tell people about the grueling violence and torture they endured at the hands of six White law enforcement officers one night last year, culminating in Jenkins being shot in the mouth.

Details from the January 24, 2023, incident eventually came to light after the two men – both of whom are Black – filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in June. Many of the claims were later borne out by federal prosecutors in August as the six former Mississippi officers pleaded guilty to a combined 13 felonies in connection with the torture and abuse of the two men.

Parker and Jenkins, along with their families and attorneys, will speak at a news conference in Jackson on Monday afternoon, ahead of the federal sentencing proceedings of the former officers, which both victims say was motivated by their race. Some of the officers called themselves “The Goon Squad” because of their willingness to use excessive force and not report it, federal prosecutors said.

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, 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 related to the incident.

The two victims, who are expected to testify in federal court this week, will be accompanied by their lead attorney Malik Shabazz, who said Monday’s news conference will focus on the victims. The lawyers are expected to “break down each defendant’s possibilities and expectations” for the sentencing proceedings.

During Monday’s news conference, Shabazz said he will also discuss their “expectations of justice” at the sentencing proceedings and provide an update on the lawsuit against the county and Sheriff Bryan Bailey.

Shabazz told CNN his team met with the Justice Department on Friday ahead of the sentencing proceedings in Jackson before Southern District of Mississippi US District Court Judge Tom Lee.

“Kristen Clarke, US Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, has just reached out to Michael Jenkins, Eddie Parker and their families,” Shabazz told CNN on Friday. “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,” he continued.

Federal prosecutors seek maximum sentences for ex-officers

Elward and Middleton will be sentenced on Tuesday; Dedmon and Opdyke on Wednesday; and Hartfield and McAlpin on Thursday. Federal prosecutors are seeking the maximum sentences for the officers.

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

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.

The incident occurred on January 24, 2023, in Braxton, Mississippi, just southeast of Jackson. In their lawsuit, 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.

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.”

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

The six former officers also pleaded guilty to state charges against them stemming from the same January 2023 incident. Each of the officers were charged with conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, according to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office.

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. They await sentencing on the state charges.

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