WASHINGTON - Acting Assistant Attorney General Rena J. Comisac and U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton announced the sentencing of nine former corrections officers from Harrison County Adult Detention Center in Gulfport, Miss. A 10th defendant, Ryan Michael Teel, a former corrections officer, was sentenced last Thursday in federal court for his role in the death of Jessie Lee Williams Jr. a former inmate at the jail. Williams died from severe brain trauma after he was beaten by Teel in the booking room of the jail. On Nov. 1, 2007, Teel was sentenced to life in prison for his role in Williams’ death and his role in conspiring to abuse other inmates during this tenure as a corrections officer.
During the course of the investigation into Williams’ death, nine additional corrections officers were convicted of federal crimes for their role while working at the jail in abusing inmates committed between 2002 and 2006:
Dedri Yulon Caldwell, 46, of Gulfport, Miss., was convicted of conspiring to deprive inmates of their constitutional rights. She was sentenced to 24 months in prison.
Daniel Evans, 27, of Gulfport, Miss., was convicted of conspiring to deprive inmates of their constitutional rights. He was sentenced to 36 months in prison.
Brodrick Aaron Fulton, 26, of Bay St. Louis, Miss., was convicted of assaulting an inmate in violation of the inmate's constitutional rights. The inmate suffered a broken jaw as a result of this assault. He was sentenced to 33 months in prison.
Timothy Brandon Moore, 26, of Perkinston, Miss., was convicted of obstructing justice by writing a false report. He was sentenced to four months of house arrest and five years probation.
William Jeffrey Priest, 34, of Gloster, Miss., was convicted of conspiring to deprive inmates of their constitutional rights. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison.
Regina Lynn Rhodes, 30, of Biloxi, Miss., was convicted for participating in the assault on Jessie Lee Willams Jr. and failing to report Teel's conduct. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Karl W. Stolze, 39, of Biloxi, Miss., was convicted of conspiring to deprive inmates of their constitutional rights. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison.
Morgan Lee Thompson, 30, of Perkinston, Miss., was convicted of conspiring to deprive inmates of their constitutional rights. He was sentenced to 48 months in prison.
Thomas Preston Wills, 25, of d'Iberville, Miss., was convicted on conspiring to deprive inmates of their constitutional rights. He was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
“The vast majority of law enforcement officials perform their duties with professionalism,” said Rena J. Comisac, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “But when officers cross the line and commit willful misconduct, the Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute them.”
The Civil Rights Division is committed to the aggressive enforcement of the nation’s civil rights laws. In the past seven years of this Administration, the Division has convicted over 50 percent more defendants for color of law, or official misconduct, violations than in the previous seven years. The Division continues to set records in the enforcement of criminal civil law. Last year, the Division convicted 189 defendants for civil rights violations, which is a record number in the 50-year history of the Division. Last year’s record broke the record set in 2006.
Federal prosecutors Lisa M. Krigsten and John Cotton Richmond of the Civil Rights Division handled this matter for the Department of Justice. Acting Assistant Attorney General Comisac and U.S. Attorney Lampton thank the Mississippi Highway Patrol for their unwavering assistance during the course of this important investigation. Special Agent Joel J. Wallace of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation served as the lead investigator throughout the investigation.