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Two Officers Plead Guilty on Civil Rights Charges

WASHINGTON – Two former supervisors at the Winston-Choctaw County Regional Correctional Facility in Louisville, Miss., pleaded guilty today to federal criminal charges relating to physical assaults on prisoners at the facility in October 2001.

Former Captain David Mitchell pleaded guilty to one felony count of violating the civil rights of inmate Jimmy Commer by violently assaulting him without justification. Mitchell and former deputy warden Scotty Graham each pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiring to obstruct justice by writing false reports about the October 2001 assaults of the inmates, and by lying to the officials who investigated them.

“The vast majority of law enforcement officials perform their duties with professionalism, often under difficult circumstances,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “But when officers cross the line and commit wilful misconduct, the Department of Justice will vigorously enforce the requirements of federal law.”

Mitchell faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for the civil rights offense. Mitchell and Graham each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the conspiracy offense.

The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as those laws that prohibit the wilful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials. In fact, the Division has compiled a significant record on criminal civil rights prosecutions in the last six years. In fiscal year 2006, nearly 50 percent of the cases brought by the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division involved such prosecutions. Since fiscal year 2001, the Division has convicted 50 percent more defendants for excessive force and official misconduct than in the preceding six years.

This case was investigated by the Oxford Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorneys Edward Caspar and Kathleen Monaghan with the help of Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Coleman.