WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Natchez, Miss., Police Department Officers Elvis Prater, 35, and Dewayne Johnson, 32, with civil rights offenses and other offenses related to the beating of two men in custody, the theft of an arrestee’s credit and debit cards, and the officers’ false statements to federal investigators. Prater and Johnson were arrested Thursday morning.
Prater was charged with two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and one count of false statements. If convicted, he faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison for the civil rights offenses and five years in prison for the false statements offense. Johnson was charged with two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft, credit card fraud, and bank fraud, and two counts of false statements. If convicted, he faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison for the civil rights offenses and five years in prison for the conspiracy and false statements offenses.
According to the indictment, on May 23, 2009, Prater assaulted two arrestees who were in custody of the Natchez Police Department, Johnson failed to protect an arrestee in his patrol car from Prater’s assault, and Johnson stole credit and debit cards from an arrestee in his custody. The indictment further charges that Johnson conspired with his cousin, Patricia Wilson, to fraudulently use the arrestee’s credit and debit cards at a gas station, restaurants, and retail stores in Natchez, Miss., and Vidalia, La. Finally, the indictment charges that Prater and Johnson lied to the FBI during the course of their investigation into these offenses.
Wilson, 34, of Woodville, Miss., previously pleaded guilty to conspiring with Johnson to commit identity theft, credit card fraud and bank fraud.
During her plea, Wilson acknowledged that on May 23, 2009, Johnson arranged a meeting and gave her a credit card, which she believed he had stolen. Johnson, who appeared to be holding a second credit card in his hand, asked Wilson to buy beer for an upcoming party he was throwing. Johnson also informed Wilson that the credit card had a $3,000 credit limit, and told Wilson she could also use the stolen credit card to buy something for herself. Wilson took the credit card to a retail store in Vidalia, La., where she attempted to make a purchase, but the credit card, which had been reported as stolen, was declined. The information to which Wilson pleaded guilty also charges that the police officer made or caused to be made several other charges with the stolen credit and debit cards at retail stores, restaurants and a gas station in Natchez and Vidalia, La.
Wilson faces a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison. Her sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.
The case is being investigated by the Jackson Field Office of the FBI and the Mississippi State Office of the Attorney General. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Erin Aslan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenda Haynes of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.
The charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.